During School Edmonton Journal

SUMMARY: My time at the Edmonton Journal

My 15-day internship at the Edmonton Journal over the winter break has successfully completed and over these last few weeks I’ve written up a few blog entries about my experience and emailed them to myself to post here. I didn’t post them up during my time at the paper but now I’ve organized those emails into the following, from most recent to dated – enjoy!

January 4, 2009:

In my final two days with the Journal, I find myself doing health-related stories that were both probably the best stories I’ve written throughout the entire internship. One about a boy who had a liver transplant as a baby, and another about a man with Alzheimers. Both made for very interesting interviews.. and I think more mature stories that I’m proud to have written, with people I’m happy to have met.

I had a very enlightening and fun experience with the Journal this winter break. It was 15 days of writing different stories, becoming an on-the-spot expert for different topics, talking to and meeting different people, and learning what goes on in a newsroom, how these going ons go on, and discovering whether or not this profession is indeed what I’d like to do with my life.

Since Day 1, and by Day 1 I mean before I even started Journalism school almost two years ago, I had wanted to go into print Journalism first before I eventually got to broadcast journalism and being on TV (which has been my ultimate goal since, as I said, Day 1), because I felt having a print journalism background would help me in the long run, and would be a more impressive, solid, background to have. This is still true to this day. And the journalists I’ve spoken to, photographers I’ve spoken to, have all agreed with my path choice.

I have very much enjoyed the experience here at this paper, things I’ve learned, things I’ve picked up. Of course there’s things that I didn’t like about the experience, but in the long run, I’m really glad I was given this opportunity and I’m really glad I took it. What I’d like to do is I’d like to pick up where I left off in the summertime, right back here at this paper. But again I’m wondering if the fact that I want to eventually be in broadcast, and not print… the fact that after a 4-month internship at any daily paper, I want to go back to school for broadcast, will hurt my chances of getting the internship?

Either way, I’d love to get a chance to get back here and work over the summer and I’m hoping I’ll be able to.

For now it’s back to journalism school for another 3 months and while the experience at the paper has been great, I’m completely stoked to trade the 8 hour days in the newsroom to 3 hour days in the classroom once more.

With Wednesdays off. :D

The End.

December 28, 2008:

I have now been working at the Journal for 8 days and I am enjoying the experience a lot. It’s really great to see my name being published in this major daily newspaper with a circulation of god knows how much (well I should, maybe I’ll look that up and add it at the end of this blog). I’ve been getting more interesting stories assigned to me and I think I’ve been doing a good job because I’ve been getting on the first and second pages of the City Plus (Section B) section as well as I had the main website story on Christmas Day.

I’ve also had the chance to get weekend shift experience which is really interesting considering there are only about 5 people in the entire newsroom during the weekend shift. It’s very quiet, but it’s kind of nice… and the weekend editors are usually just regular reporters like myself (who have a lot more experience than I do though), so they are really friendly and more relaxed than the weekday editors (not saying anything bad about the weekday editors, they are great too but just in the weekend setting, everything is more chill).

I will be putting up a list with links of articles I’ve written once this internship is completed. (That’s another thing I love about working here, all my stories are forever immortalized on the website!) I have to say I’m pretty proud of most of them, but that is also largely due to the great editing that my editors/fellow reporters have been helping me do.

Some key advice that I’ve been getting from some of my editors/weekend editors (reporters):

1. Don’t write “that” – it is unnecessary and repetitive. Instead of writing “he said that they were going to win” why not write “he said they were going to win” ? Plus it saves paper space. – advice from Trish Audette.

2. Try not to use words that end in “ing” – if you can find a better word (which you should be able to), use that. “ing” words just don’t sound as good. – advice from Ryan Cormier.

Also, for fundraising type stories – ALWAYS ask them how much they have raised currently and how much they want to raise.

And it never hurts to ask for people’s age. If you don’t use it in the story, that’s fine but if you have that information and it can be worked into the story, that’s great. Better than wanting to use it in the story, but not having it.

(Both advice from Trish).

Another thing I’ve picked up, which I guess I should have been saying all this time but, at the end of an interview, ask the person if it’s okay if you have any more questions, can you call the person back or is there a better number the person can be reached at if they’re perhaps in the office for an hour but gone the next. It’s super helpful because for one thing then if you call the person back, they were kind of expecting your call so it’s not like ‘Oh, it’s you again, I thought we were done talking!’ So that eliminates awkward re-introductions and apologies for calling again after the person thought they were done with you. As well, this allows you the opportunity to get more information if you need it.

I think the key word is, if you need it. If you have someone’s age, if you have more information, that’s always better because if you NEED the information, you will have it to use. Same thing with ensuring a call back is okay. If you forgot to ask a question or you NEED more information, a simple ‘ is it okay if I call you back if I have anymore questions ‘ ensures that if you NEED more information, you will get it quick and painlessly.

And I realize these are things that I should have been doing or should have known already, but it doesn’t hurt to repeat them and have them etched forever into my brain and as part of my habit. Never too late for that.

My brother asked me the other day if I’m liking my time at the paper now and I honestly replied that yes I am really enjoying it. He said, ‘even without internet access to all your websites?’, and I said yes I’ve actually learned to cope and deal with it. Last week I told my friend that the journalism teachers lie because they say every day is different and you’re never doing the same thing twice – when really you are at a desk every single day and you are doing the same thing twice (making calls, writing notes, reseaching using Google, etc). But I see now that technically, every day IS different. I do a different story every day. I talk to different people every day. I’m researching different things every day. Though the process is always the same, the actual topics are different. Yesterday I was talking to hockey kids and their parents about breast cancer, today I’m talking to bar owners and church ministers about banning VLTs, last week I talked to an inventor and a transit bus authority about crime. The list goes on and on. In that sense, the profession is very interesting and it’s true what they say about journalists, how they have to become experts at everything. This ties into what I talked about with my journalism friend a few months ago – how she says she knows so much information about the most random and unrelated topics… because of this field we are in and the people we talk to. We become so completely educated on one topic, immersed in research, background information, facts and opposing viewpoints about a particular subject. It’s fascinating.

When I started, I seriously wondered if I wanted to even apply for the internship at the Journal for the summer anymore, but now I’m certain that I’m going to apply. Of course, it would be a major burn on me if I was rejected, but at the same time it wouldn’t I guess… because the person who handles summer internships is different from the person who handled the winter internship. In my cover letter that I had written when I had planned to apply for the summer internship, I wrote that I would love to pick up where I left off here at the Journal and now more than ever, I think that is true.

I am kind of scared to ask my editor for a reference letter however. He is really nice and I think I’ve made a good impression, but how bad would it be if I asked and he said no? Or I asked and he wrote me a really shoddy letter. Saying I hadn’t come up with any story ideas on my own or whatever else negative he could say about me? To that, however, I think is kind of unfair because the other intern has not come up with any of his own story ideas either! And again this taps into the, well you should try and stand out and come up with one on your own then..

But I think a reason I’m holding back from pitching any of my own ideas is that I enjoy the fact that I’m assigned something new each day. And if I pitched my own idea, which might not even be a great idea, one that might not even go anywhere, the editor will then assign someone else a story that I could have been given and that I could have produced something great with. So my fear really is just pitching an idea that goes nowhere while a story that would have been assigned to me had I not pitched anything, goes to someone else.

My old reporter friend from the Saint City News told me that I should try and pitch SOMETHING, because it shows I have initiative, and tried to stand out and step up.

But well, we will see.

For now, I’m going to work on honing my writing skills. Being more concise and eliminating unnecessary words (like “that”). I’m picking up some tricks of the trade I guess, comparing my original versions to the versions that end up in the paper and seeing what they took out or changed and why. It is still my story. Things are still in the order that I made them and quotes and sentences and sentence ideas are still intact. All that’s really been edited are certain words I choose to use that might not be as concise or present tense or sound as good as a different word and that’s totally understandable.

Also CP style. Numbers from one to nine are spelt out, 10 and up are numerical but numbers at the beginning of the sentence must be spelt out no matter how large or small, things like that. Little rules I need to remember. I mean I remember those ones, but there are ones that I am not usually faced with that I either capitalize or add an unnecessary hyphen in between or something.

All in all, things have been good. I look forward to what my last week and a few days brings me and I look forward to what new stories and new people I’ll be talking to from now until the internship ends.

I find it funny how I always seem to start these internships with such loathing and dread, and after a few days I’m in this comfortable and happy routine. I think that’s just how I am and I should remember that if I ever get a job somewhere far away. I’m always so close to giving up or quitting, or reminding myself to just bare with it and keep going, in a desperate manner. But then after a few days I’ve forgotten how sad I was, or how much I dreaded waking up and coming into work. It’s really odd. It just takes me awhile to adjust I think. And on a grander scale, like if I had moved down to Toronto or some place for an internship, imagining myself wanting to quit and move back is such a sad vision that I really hope these blog entries will help me in the future. Let me know that it’s hard at first but it will get better. And how. (:

December 22, 2008:

Today was my fourth day working at the Edmonton Journal and probably my best day thus far.

Last week I had to start a few days after the other intern because I still had finals… It was this late start, I feel, that made my first two days of work really difficult. Not difficult in the sense that the work was too much for me or I couldn’t get my job done because of said difficulty, no. Difficult in that my assignment editor kept giving these really GREAT Christmas stories to the other intern — who was already quite comfy and cozy by the time I started. It was really disheartening. The assignments I was given didn’t really pan out, though I did get a story in the paper after my second day.

On my third day things were starting to look up – I got a really interesting story, people were calling me back and answering my calls, I busied myself right up until it was time to go home. Then I opened the paper the next day and realized that my story had not made it into the paper. Cue sadness and anger. Cue doubts about my writing ability. Surely they didn’t think the story was bad. SURELY it was better than the one I had done the prior day?! I certainly had had fun writing it and felt it was a good story.

I later discovered that I had forgotten to print the story and put it in the “unedited copy” bin in the newsroom and it was this slip of my memory that was actually the reason my story wasn’t published, not my inability to produce a good, publish-worthy story. Sad feelings subsided.

I remembered back at my first few days at the Saint City News last summer. I had felt pretty low during the beginning too. Sad, unadjusted, worrying about whether or not this was the career for me. Same thing happened with these first few days here at the Journal. (Just an aside – now whenever someone mentions St. Albert or the Saint City News, my face lights up in joy. No joke. I love that city and talking about that city and I really did love my time there, as I’ve come to announce to several people now).

Anyway, so the first few days at the Journal was leaving me feeling pretty down.

I want to be on TV so badly. I want to do broadcast journalism so badly. I had always assumed I could conquer the writing/print journalism world too, if I really wanted to. I think I could do it and I think I could do it really well.

One thing I think that had left me feeling down those first few days here was how I wanted to set myself apart from the other intern but I didn’t know how. I feel that in terms of writing, interviewing skills, ability to make phone calls, research, and get work done, I feel that both I and the intern were capable of all of those things. But a lot of his stories kept getting on the front of the City section and I think one has already gotten onto the front page of the paper, and that bummed me out to no end because… it’s not that he is a better writer than I am. Or he is capable of more than I am. Like I said, I think we are both capable of all of those qualities needed in a strong reporter. I think I’ve just been completely envious of the stories he was given. But that’s just that. He was given those stories that had great opportunity for photographs and great opportunity for front page material and I wasn’t. He is no different than I because he has not pitched his own story yet either.

And I mean, I know, it would be immature and silly of me to blame my issues those first few days on the fact that I wasn’t given good stories. Some might argue that I could have taken the stories I was given and really blow my editors away with my writing ability or the way I handled the stories… so I won’t entirely blame the bad luck and sad feelings I was having those first few days on the fact that I wasn’t given good stories because that would be wrong. But I am saying that the better stories being  given to the other intern was a contributing factor to the suckfest that was that Wednesday and Thursday and could have been avoided had maybe the editor given him one great story and then given me one great story instead of giving him both great stories and me the side fodder that makes you go “Well.. I GUESS that’s kind of news? It’s a slow news day so.. you can do that.”

As I said, I am not putting all of the blame on the fact that I wasn’t given good stories because had I really wanted to shine and really wanted to stand out and really wanted to get on that front page and get great stories, then I could have come up with my own story ideas and I didn’t. So that was my bad. And that is something that I do need to work on – generating my own story ideas and making those work.

On Sunday I was reading my horoscope and it told me that I need to improve my job. Then it listed reasons how I could go about improving my job. It said I could quit and get a new job. I could change the duties of my current job. Or I could change my attitude about my job.

So this morning I went into work with a positive mantra, repeated over and over in my mind while I was on the train, I will be positive today. I will be positive today. Now, you probably think I’m crazy. And I probably am just I little bit, but I think it really worked. Today I was assigned a great story, I got out of the office, did interviews on site, called people once I got back into the office and the person called me back immediately, filed my story to web for the first time because my story topic was actually important enough to be put on the web that quickly, then wrote the full version of the story for the paper tomorrow.

It was a good day. And I’m going to say that my horoscope and my thinking positively, played a huge role in the karmic awesomeness of my day. And normally I don’t really believe in horoscopes! Though I do believe in fate and destiny… but that’s a different story.

The week has gotten off to do a good start, I get Christmas, Boxing Day, and New Years off (though I have to work weekends to make sure I fill my 15-day internship requirement), but I’m looking forward to what the week has to offer. I should have two stories in the paper tomorrow, ones I will actually be happy about, and I’m going to go in to work tomorrow positive, positive, positive, and hope a similar day like today (or even Friday, which was also a good day technically) repeats itself.

One thing that I have been contemplating since I started work here last week though, is whether or not I want to apply here for the summer… for one thing, how bad will it look if I’ve interned here for the winter break then I apply for the summer internship and get rejected? Won’t that mean that my editors thought I sucked? Basically? Another thing is… if what I really want to do is broadcast. Why not get an internship in a newsroom of a TV or radio station? It probably wouldn’t be as prestigious an internship as a summer one with the Journal but it would be on the right path right? In the right direction? And to tag onto my wanting to broadcast, if the person who interviews me for the summer internship asks me what I eventually want to end up doing, if I say ‘broadcast’, will that hurt my chances? That they’d rather have someone who wants to do print for the rest of their lives? (Which technically can’t be possible anyway with the way the news industry is changing what with convergence and journalists having to do multiple things podcasts, news stories, blogs, stuff with the Internet, etc, but that’s a different story as well).

Anyway, that’s just something I’ve been thinking about. And I should probably come to a conclusion pretty soon because Journal summer internship deadlines is something like January 6th.. and I don’t even know when TV and radio newsroom deadlines would be. Maybe they’ve already passed and I’ve lost my chance? Ha. We’ll see. Until next time!

So that’s that!

The next post will include links to the articles I wrote for the paper! :)

Linda Hoang is an Edmonton blogger who writes about food, travel, lifestyle/events and pets. She’s also a social media/digital specialist with a journalism background. Linda is in love with her city and loves exploring and promoting Edmonton and other places she visits with her husband Mike. Linda is also the founder of the Edmonton International Cat Festival (and has 2 cats herself, along with 2 dogs).

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