It was a sobering experience talking to a bar owner about the future of his business the day after a fatal shooting occurred on the bar’s front patio.
So was speaking with a parent who lost his son only hours previously in a school bus accident. Both interviews were assigned to me early in my internship at the Des Moines Register, and both forced me to the outer boundaries of my comfort zone.
Before those experiences, I must have underestimated the fortitude it takes to work in journalism. Then, there I was being asked to make phone calls to grieving families that literally tied my stomach in knots. Eventually, I realized the job wouldn’t get done by sitting and staring at the phone.
Working at the Register for four months now, those difficult interviews no longer make me as uneasy as before. I’ve been fortunate to be given the opportunity to cover events ranging from rural water board meetings to Occupy Des Moines protests surrounding the Iowa Caucuses. The job is also beginning to require more video production – a prospect I look forward to.
And, I feel as though most days at work – say 85 percent of the time – I learn something new about myself as a journalist. In November and December, my copy editing before filing a story proved to need more attention (and I worked to become more deliberate in both my writing and editing). It no doubt helped that I was taking a copy editing class at the same time.
Other days, the lesson is simply to be more careful handling digital files. There’s no feeling as heartbreaking as when an interviewee knocks it out of the park, only to have the audio or video file deleted by your own haphazard handling.
The biggest question I get when people ask me about my internship at the Register remains whether or not I see myself ultimately going into journalism as a career. That’s a tougher question, and who honestly knows what career opportunities exist at the age of 21? But right now, the answer is an undoubted yes.
For a journalism student, the Register’s been a great place to work. It’s inspiring to work alongside the professionals such as Jason Pulliam, who, though he left the job in December, had the amazing skill of taking the sometimes mundane news of local government and making it relevant and exciting (in addition to being just an all-around nice guy).
The internship has also given me amazing insight into my own interests as a writer. I work as a general assignment reporter, however, I’ve covered stories from a number of traditional beats, including police, city and a number of cultural events. I was at the finish line when Des Moines icon Forey Jacobson, the barefoot runner, completed his first race following months in the hospital after a brutal assault. I was also fortunate enough to be at the home of Des Moines Police Officer Phoukham Tran when he returned home from rehabilitation in January after being hit by a drunk driver outside of the Iowa State Fair in August.
These stories, though tragic in nature, both have far-reaching consequences each in their own right and were two of my favorite to cover.
In this nature, my internship has done far more than prepare me for the professional world: it’s shown me so many sides of the human condition.