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Last week, I did a phone interview with James McMurtry, a folk song-songwriter based in Texas. Trusting my handy-dandy digital voice recorder to do its job, I plugged it into the jack and conducted the interview as I usually do– stress free and confident that I’d have the interview to go through and transcribe later.

Well. Technology failed me. Whether the jack I used didn’t work, or the error came from me, when I listened to the interview, I heard only myself asking questions and long periods of silence where there should have been answers.

My heart raced. The story was due the next morning and I knew he didn’t have time to be interviewed again.

I don’t usually take many notes when I’m doing an interview with a recorder. But fortunately, this time I had. I don’t know why, but during that interview I had been scribbling down quotes and random facts. It wasn’t a lot to work with, but it was something.

I spent the next half an hour feverishly attempting to recall everything he had said and mashing together a story from bits and pieces.

I’ll admit that sometimes I am a lazy writer: aka, I pick out a lot of quotes from an interview and write around them, connecting the dots. That’s not a good way to write. That’s not how it’s supposed to be done, and it doesn’t make for a very well written story.

This time around, I didn’t have dots to connect. I had to write based on the material I could recall, and as it turns out, the things I could recall were the most important parts of the interview.

And despite the moments of panic and angst, I think the story turned out well.

And thank the Lord I was taking notes. When I go back to school, I’ll be bringing my notepad to interviews again.

Update

For those who are interested, here are two more stories:

http://montgomerynews.com/articles/2011/06/01/entertainment/doc4de51691139d5414842271.txt

http://www.montgomerynews.com/articles/2011/05/24/ambler_gazette/news/doc4ddc01eb12715671568875.txt

“You know AP style!” he said in bewildered amazement.

If my life were a novel, that is what the latest line would read. I finished two stories today and submitted them in nervous anticipation. Though I welcome constructive criticism because I’m eager to learn, I also dread it because I tend to take things personally. So I waited to hear back. A few minutes later I see him (one  of the editors) coming towards me, with what I assume is my story in hand. I braced for impact, but the first words out of his mouth were not what I expected.

He said, “Wow, you’re really good.”

Now let me calm your excitement for a moment– this is not Pulitzer Prize worthy stuff. What he meant was “I’m surprised that you’re actually competent.” And that’s a compliment enough for me! He also asked me if I did this a lot… I said yes… He said where… I said my school paper… and yet he still looked bewildered.

(Maybe interns aren’t supposed to be competent?)

Anyway. This means that they can give me a story and let me cover it with little to no hand holding. That was my first goal. Mission accomplished. What’s my next goal? Keep getting better at writing, keep getting faster, keep getting more clips and keep learning from my mistakes.

And here’s what I learned about the industry this week: The rival of  traditional local newspapers is Patch.com, which I mentioned in my last post. It is an internet hub for “hyperlocal” journalism that is almost the only real competition for papers like this. It’s an old school/new school feud that’s causing some tension in the ranks at local newspapers across the country. A lot of writers from papers have been snatched up by Patch, which is a bit of a sore spot even here (evidence of animosity: newspaper people referring to Patch people as “hipsters”).

Overall, I’m beginning to enjoy this more. The internship continues to be a good experience.

Here’s the link to a story I wrote last week:

Trappe/Collegeville Memorial Day Parade to kick off celebration of Muhlenberg’s 300th birthday

The other stories will be along shortly. In other AP related news, @APStylebook is now following me on Twitter, affirming all suspicion that I am a journalism nerd.

I started my first journalism internship this week, which I both love and hate. I needed the internship for school, but I wanted to get one regardless because I wanted to find out whether or not working at a newspaper was actually something I wanted to do with my life. So here I am, loving and hating it.

(Background on where I am– it’s a small newspaper group that runs 13ish weekly local paper and operates a website with daily news. And when I say local, I mean completely local. They believe localism is the only way small newspapers will survive, and I  think they may be onto something. I heard someone here say, “If the newspaper industry ever does die, we’ll be the last ones standing.”)

Now, I hate it for a few reasons (always best to start with the negative and work up from there).

1. I’m getting the vibe that the people who work here kind of hate their jobs. Needless to say, that does nothing to inspire morale. On the first day, my supervisor told me he’s left several times, but always finds his way back. He finds his way back, though, not because he keeps returning to his first love, but because he’s more or less stuck. “It’s like a disease,” he said. A bit cynical? Absolutely. That’s probably the most common issue with people in this trade (note: I did not call it a profession– that was for Dr. Baker).

2. It’s quiet. Most people keep to their cubicles. I imagine that has a lot to do with the fact that they don’t run a daily newspaper, so the natural hubbub and urgency of a newsroom is somewhat (if not completely) lost.

3. Starting salary here? $19,000 a year. Ouch. It’s not that I plan on making a career at this particular location, but it is a general, haunting reminder of what my future holds. Most starting salaries I’ve seen are more in the 20-30 grand area. Slightly more acceptable, but not exactly enticing. Now, no one goes into journalism because they want to be rolling in the dough. That’s certainly not why I’m doing this. I’ve already come to terms with the fact that I’m going to be poor. I would just like to not live at my parents house until I’m 35. But as one of my journalism profs reminded us in class, when it comes to money and the news media, a very small group of people make a ton of money doing this, and everyone else makes next to nothing. There is almost no journalism middle class.

4. And speaking of money, the internship itself in unpaid. This is not unusual these days. There’s been a lot of talk about the issue of unpaid internships in recently months. Feel free to educate yourself on the plight of the unpaid intern.

And why I love it:

1. There is a Wawa on the way here. Never underestimate the importance of coffee that is both inexpensive and quality! It gets me through the day.

2. It’s my third day and I’ve already written two stories, conducted interviews and done some layout work. Which means that I’m actually doing journalism, not fetching coffee. Experience and clips are invaluable.

3. Going off number 2, I will ad that I actually know how to do the work they want me to do. For some reason, I thought I would be clueless and lost. But I’m not. Turns out that school thing has actually done a pretty good job training me how to do this stuff. I feel prepared to do this job, and I didn’t realize that I would until I started here. Props to my Cedarville Professors.

4. The hours are extremely flexible… probably because they don’t pay me so they can’t fire me… And everyone wears jeans. My revolt against professionalism is fostered in this environment.

Stay tuned for more updates!

For the Record…

Pulling out all the bells… and no whistles.

Alright. I’ve had just about enough of Rob Bell talking without actually saying anything. Check this out… this is Bell talking to the Washington Post about how he’s been “slandered,” but he doesn’t actually give any examples, or say anything substantive at all.

To deport or not to deport?

Here’s an interesting article about a four-year-old girl who was basically denied entry into the U.S. even though she is an American Citizen. The girl’s parents, who happen to be illegally living in the U.S. were not allowed to take custody of their daughter upon her arrival, but and were give the option of either sending their daughter back to Guatemala or giving up custody of her all together.

Dictator seeking 2 bedroom apartment.

If Col. Moammar Gaddafi decides it’s time to find a new home, where will he go? Here’s an interesting look at Gaddafi’s lodging options.

Boy and Beards. Just for fun.

These brothers’ lyrics are always impressive… and so are their beards.

Yesterday The New York Times‘ website implemented its long-awaited (dreaded, in my case) pay wall, that limits online readers to 20 free articles a month before it asks (requires) that they subscribe.

Twenty free articles a month might sound fine and dandy to… well, I don’t know who… but I probably go through that many in a day or two. Many people do. Of course, the easy solution to that is obvious: subscribe! But. I’m in college. I am poor. And I am desperately cheap.

From the Times Publisher Arthur Sulzberger Jr. (you can read his entire explanation letter here):

“As you have seen during this recent period of extraordinary global news, The Times is uniquely positioned to keep you informed. The launching of our digital subscription model will help ensure that we can continue to provide you with the high-quality journalism and substantive analysis that you have come to expect from The Times.”

I mean, I get it. Newspapers all over the world are struggling to keep afloat. But that doesn’t mean I’m not going to pout about it.

I love the Times for that “high-quality journalism and substantive analysis” Sulzberger was talking about. I’ve defended the Times (and CNN as well) to people who have called it liberal hoopla (in so many words…) because, lets face it, they are the best at the NEWS part. Just because I’m a conservative doesn’t mean I should have to suffer through FOX News (or, heaven forbid, the Fox News website) and shun everything else. I don’t have to agree with every OP-ED column that appears in the Times to acknowledge that it is good at what it does.

I’m not sure whether or not I’ll subscribe. Perhaps after the first month of rationing I”ll change my mind, but for now I’m disappointed enough to do without.

“What are you?”

People who know me very well (and maybe some who don’t) know that this is one of my absolute least favorite questions to be asked.

I’m from the East Coast– a place where diversity is generally a way of life, not a bullet point on a strategic map. I have never been asked the “What are you?” question there. Maybe it’s my fault for picking a college in the midwest, but there sure seems to be a lot of questions like that here.

I’ll share one example. I covered a village council meeting for a local newspaper, and as I waited for the meeting to begin, I made small talk with the man seated next to me. I told him my name and that I was a reporter for the local paper, and the first thing he said to me after a hurried “that’s interesting” was “So, what are you? You just look different. Are you Spanish? Do you speak Spanish then?” In a professional setting, that wasn’t what I expected to hear. It was like he had never seen someone like me before.

The strange thing is, I’m just your average white (mostly) girl from the middle-class suburbs. I’m not a minority. I just happen to have a little bit of a mixed ethnic background. Mexican. Norwegian. Irish. German. French. You name it. And as it turns out, that make me pretty normal. Maybe not in Cedarville, Ohio, but certainly in the rest of the country.

The New York Times published an article in January that caught my attention because it addressed an issue that I had been thinking over for some time. It said, “The crop of students moving through college right now includes the largest group of mixed-race people ever to come of age in the United States, and they are only the vanguard: the country is in the midst of a demographic shift driven by immigration and intermarriage.”

So almost every time I hear people at my school mention the issue of diversity, I cringe a little. For some reason, to them, diversity seems to be only a black and white problem. It’s like they’re still trying to struggle through basic civil rights issues and white guilt. They are about 30 years behind, in my estimation.

The university is trying hard to increase the diversity of the student population– the goal is 15% diversity by 2020. But in order handle this issue correctly, they need to look at the major demographic changes happening in our country. The 2010 U.S. Census data was pretty clear in indicating that the fasting growing minority group in America is Hispanics, to no one’s surprise. Combine those statistics with the increase in mixed-race Americans and you have a recipe for change– a diversity issue that’s much deeper than black and white.

The NYT article also mentioned that many people are beginning to reject the idea that they have to pick one race to be labeled as. The single-race way of thinking comes from a time in our country when the rule was that “anyone with a trace of African ancestry was only black.”

According to the article (and my own experience) that thinking still prevails in our society, even though the concept should have been thrown away long ago. “Witness President Obama’s answer to the race question on the 2010 census: Although his mother was white and his father was black, Mr. Obama checked only one box, black, even though he could have checked both races.”

I am glad that my school recognizes that diversity is an issue that needs to be addressed, but I hope that in their search for a more “ethnically diverse” student body, they will try looking in their own backyard first. I’m sure the student body is actually a lot more diverse then they even realize.