My Time With The Boulder Weekly – Internship Work Log

Week 1
I was assigned to write an environmental story for the publication this week. The topic was on recycling medication, which I thought was very appealing, and it certainly was in my range of interests. I had found great sources to interview and they were mostly very helpful but, I learned from Elizabeth, the special editions editor at Boulder Weekly that emailing sources wasn’t the best way for an interview. This was because you can never be sure of who’s actually answering the questions on the other end. But the story came out well and was published in the special edition of the Boulder Weekly, called Boulderganic.

Read story here: http://www.boulderweekly.com/article-9796-recycle-your-medication.html

Week 2
Jeff, the managing editor, was gone this week but luckily I had two other editors to work with. Steve, the online editor, was extremely helpful to me as I was assigned to cover a cuisine story. The story was about the nose-to-tail dining experience. I had the chance to sit down with chefs in Boulder and learned a lot more than I’d originally thought I would. The story ran that week but I was told to cut down on the ‘cheerleading’ because we want to remain as objective as possible.

Read story here: http://www.boulderweekly.com/article-9718-whole-hog.html

Week 3
Both interns and staff joke about having “the week off” when we’re assigned to write Tidbites and Ecobriefs for the paper. Tidbites is a compilation of upcoming food events in the area while Ecobriefs are usually short briefs about current or local environmental issues. Despite not having to interview people, I’d quickly learn that it could still be challenging because it tested my ability to being concise yet detailed enough for readers to grasp all the important information.

Read Ecobrief: http://www.boulderweekly.com/article-9745-house-votes-for-increased-oversight-in-energy-loans.html

Week 4
I’ve made it one full round and it seemed like I was starting to get the hang of it. Week 4 of the internship proved otherwise for me. Elizabeth had asked me to pitch to her an environmental news story for Boulderganic, the environmental section of the paper. I was excited that I got to choose what to write and so I suggested the idea of writing about the Arctic sea ice melt. The story did not end up running because it failed to capture a local news hook and relevance to the audience of the paper. In return however, Elizabeth got to share with us (the interns) the process of pitching an idea to your editor and that communication is key. Lesson learned.

Week 5
Week 5 was extremely stressful. Not only were we still responsible for the usual weekly content writing, we were also assigned to write about ballot issues for the Boulder Weekly’s annual Vote Guide. I got assigned ballot issues that had to do with two fire departments, Rocky Mountain Fire Protection District Ballot Issue 5A and Boulder Mountain Fire Protection District Ballot Issue 5A.

I had a hard time getting a hold of sources to help me clarify the issue on the ballot and nearly missed my deadline this time but thankfully, my source got back to me on time. I learned that sometimes you just have to be proactive and do everything you can to get that information. I left about a dozen voicemails and was about to walk into my source’s office, had he not returned my phone call in time.

Read Vote Guide here: http://www.boulderweekly.com/article-9884-rocky-mountain-fire-protection-district-ballot-issue-5a-yes-on-tax-increase.html
http://www.boulderweekly.com/article-9885-boulder-mountain-fire-protection-district-ballot-issue-5a-yes-on-property-tax-increase.html

Week 6
I was back onto writing cuisine. I chose to write about The Kitchen Boulder and their nonprofit effort called the Learning Garden. Trying to get an interview with a very busy person was my primary concern when I was writing this story. I had to call multiple people before finally being able to schedule a time to interview the co-founder of The Kitchen, Kimbal Musk. I also had to sacrifice my time from classes just so I could do the interview and turn my story in on time. This was also the story that I had to make a correction statement for because I had mistakenly identified a source in my story. It was a hard lesson to learn because these were really the fundamentals of journalism, which I should have known better than to make mistakes with. But Jeff, my editor, was kind to me and says that it happens to the best of us. I am definitely a lot of more aware and careful with my sources and stories now.

Read story: http://www.boulderweekly.com/article-9905-turning-little-thumbs-green.html

Week 7
This week was back to writing short environmental and cuisine briefs for me. By now, us interns have mostly gotten the hang of the system and are mostly responsible for our own workload. We mostly got the materials for the sections from press releases that we get. We probably only talked to our editors when we need help or are unsure of certain things. Also due this week was Winter Scene. It’s a special edition that the paper puts out every winter. I had to make a lot of phone calls to a lot of ski resorts and towns for my story, which was about highlighting the new dining options that would be available this winter at different ski resorts and towns. Coordinating and making sure sources got back to me on time was one of the challenges in putting my story together.

Read story: http://www.boulderweekly.com/article-9956-tidbites-twisted-tastes.html
http://www.boulderweekly.com/article-10079-fresh-winter-grub.html

Week 8
Because my editor Elizabeth already had plans to write an environmental story, I got to sit out of this week’s rotation. I also got feedback on my writing of plot summaries for the section called Reel to Reel, where we list movies that are playing in local theaters around the Boulder/Denver area. I had to improve on a couple of things, especially with keeping things concise and attribution. Reel to Reel has been a real challenge for the past two months just because I’ve never had to write such short and concise pieces like that. But the advice that I got from Elizabeth really helped me get better with it.

Week 9
This week was cuisine again for me. By now I’m pretty used to writing cuisine stories and not as scared as I was when I first started. This week I got to profile a new cuisine business called Dishcrawl. My sources were extremely helpful despite located out of the state in California. I also learned how to generally refuse accepting gifts or free meals just to avoid any possible conflict that could arise from it.

Read story: http://www.boulderweekly.com/article-10071-a-new-kind-of-crawl.html

Week 10
Writing Ecobriefs and Tidbites are becoming easier for me and I’m learning as I go, how to pull out key information from press releases while making them easy and fun to read. I also got feedback again on my movie summaries for Reel to Reel and Elizabeth said she found no mistakes this time. I was delighted. I finally got it right.

I also got assigned a lot more responsibilities this week. My editor handed me a stack of information about candidates in Colorado and their latest campaign efforts as Election Day drew closer and asked me to whip up a quick news story for the web within two hours. I managed to do it and the story was published on Boulder Weekly’s website.

On Friday of that week, I got the chance to write another online news story on President Obama’s third visit to CU and used an interactive story telling tool called Storify. As a social media whiz, putting together the story with Storify barely seemed like work at all. I enjoyed working with it and the outcome was pleasing. I met my deadline and submitted the story to Elizabeth, and she said it was good, with minor corrections to look out for, especially with Storify.

Read stories: http://www.boulderweekly.com/article-10118-tidbites-amarone-wine-dinner-with-allegrini.html
http://www.boulderweekly.com/article-10106-eco-briefs-boulder-engineer-competing-for-grant-to-jumpstart-water-reserve-concept.html
http://www.boulderweekly.com/article-10126-third-times-the-charm.html
http://www.boulderweekly.com/article-10095-final-push-to-the-polls.html

Week 11
I didn’t have a story published this week.

Week 12
I was back to writing cuisine and my editor, Elizabeth, had gotten a tip during the Great American Beer Festival about cheese pairing with beer instead of with wine. I got to talk to some local breweries, a sommelier and the owner of Cured Boulder, a cheese store, and was really fascinated by the process and really got to learn a lot more about beer too.

Week 13 – Fall break
Since I didn’t end up traveling or even leaving town for Thanksgiving, I went into the office. The production day was pushed up this week so everything was due a lot sooner than expected. I had to put together Reel to Reel even before some of the week’s movies were out and that just meant taking the extra step again and calling all the movie theaters for information in advance.

One of my past Ecobriefs was supposed to run today but it got pushed to next week. I had a meeting with all my editors and Steve had pointed out plagiarism to me. I’ve always understood the severity of the issue, especially being a college student and could never fathom actually intentionally perpetrating such an action. But  I guess it could still happen, especially so when you’re writing based of a press release, which is what I was doing.

Steve showed me my mistakes by highlighting phrases from the original text and then comparing them to my writing to see the similarities. The last time I remember doing a similar thing was when I’d worked with the CU Independent during my sophomore year and had no idea how to write a breaking news story based on a press release at all. It was something that I never did in any of my news/ed reporting classes and I guess I’d never gotten much practice with it until this internship. Needless to say, this was still one of my weakest set of skills, but I was confident that I would be able to master it, given the chance and opportunity. I write similar things every other week with Tidbites as well and never really encountered a problem this severe.

He also sent out an email to all the interns on guidelines for plagiarism, which probably applied to me more than anyone else.

Week 14
This was an exciting week for me because I got to write a preview sort of story to Bill McKibben’s roadshow that came to Boulder. I had interviewed him over the phone about a month earlier and was initially really nervous because up to today, he was the most “famous” person I’d interviewed. But the interview went really well and he turned out to be quite chatty, which made the interview easier too.

Read story: http://www.boulderweekly.com/article-10240-bill-mckibben-leads-divestment-campaign-to-boulder.html
http://www.boulderweekly.com/article-10230-eco-briefs-transformations-in-ornithology-in-sri-lanka.html 

Week 15
Writing a cuisine feature this week was a little tough because I didn’t get any press release or tip to work off with. So Steve, the online editor at the Weekly, and I started brainstorming together and we came up with an idea to write about smartphone food apps and it turned out to be a great idea. I got to talk to local app developers and got a lot of information on how many food apps were out there, just for Boulder.

My gift guide story also ran this week. I worked with Elizabeth quite a little bit to come up with a theme for this story but the final version still needed a lot of editing because she said that the items didn’t quite fit the theme I had picked. So instead of “Buying for singles”, it just became “Buying for that cook in the family,” which I think worked just as well.

Elizabeth also dropped me an email over plagiarism in Reel to Reel this week. One of the movie plot summaries I’d written sounded too similar to the one that was posted on RottenTomatoes.com. I think it was pure carelessness (which isn’t an excuse at all) on my part since I’m always working on such a tight deadline with Reel to Reel and having to remember to include all the movie theaters, attributions as well as being aware on conciseness and space constraints with that section of the paper. Regardless, it was expensive mistake for me to have made, despite it being completely unintentional.

Read story: http://www.boulderweekly.com/article-10297-smartphone-apps-allow-for-3g-eating.html
http://www.boulderweekly.com/article-10309-buying-for-that-cook-in-the-family.html

Week 16 

I spent my last week at the Boulder Weekly putting together my last gift guide story. The topic was last minute gifts, which is something I was familiar with since I do a lot of last minute shopping every year during the holidays. Elizabeth gave me back edits after I’d submitted the story to her and this was my only story that had the least amount of edits or revision made to it. She only made me double check two things out of the entire story. She also dropped me an email saying how I did a nice work on this story, where the items fit the theme well, the information I’d included were thorough and my focus on local retailers were great. That was the first time I had gotten a pat on the back for my work and I thought that I had improved as a writer through my internship at the Boulder Weekly.

Friday was my last day with the team and I felt a little sad to be leaving because I loved writing and learning from them. Despite thinking that I’d improved and learned a lot, the editors told me that I had still failed to meet their expectations. It was hard not to feel completely defeated at that point. I said thank you to all my editors for their time with me after the meeting. Even though I didn’t do well, I think that I still walked away from the internship knowing more than I did before.

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Failure

When I stepped into the office of my internship this morning, there was a strange dryness in my mouth and a somber feeling that hit me all at once.

I’ve counted myself blessed, to be able to learn from and observe some of the smartest and most inspiring journalists in all of Boulder County. The past four months have been a roller coaster of emotions. I’ve learned to love and hate everything that came with journalism, all at the same time. And after feeling all of that, getting its rewards and also bearing the brunt of it, I never wanted anything so much more in my life.

Today was my last day at my internship and I realized how much I’d miss it already. Not having a story in my head and not having sources to contact in the next couple of days, I felt like a fish out of water. I know how much I stress and complain over it during the semester, and how it drives me up the wall when I am stuck without a story idea, or when a source doesn’t call me back; but now that it’s over, I want it back. I want to do it, every day, for the rest of my life.

So when my editors sat me down in the conference room, with a huge pan of coffee cake from the staff holiday party in the middle of the table, I was only hoping for the best. I thought of all the improvements I’d made since the beginning of the semester and where I was now. I thought of how naive my writing was when I first started and how I couldn’t do half the things I could do now. I’ve certainly grown, right?

But they sat across from me and expressed what seemed like innumerable disappointments they had with me. After the first sentence was over, I swallowed the huge lump that had formed in the back of my throat. Their words hit hard and it was nothing close to what I was expecting. My knuckles turned white from gripping the side of my chair. They took turns expressing their concerns with me and how I didn’t meet their expectations.

Then it was my turn to talk, to reflect on my time there, and all I could say was how much I had learned from them because I really did. I thought I had made some significant improvements, but I’ve never felt so small and so insignificant than when I was in that chair facing them this morning. It made me question my entire credibility, my worth and myself as an aspiring journalist. Am I really that horrible of a writer? Can I just not process and disseminate information at all? Am I currently just seeing everything I’ve worked for, believed in, aspired to be; my ambition, unravel into a million pieces?

It felt just like that. I held my breath, kept my composure and sincerely thanked my editors for the time they’d spent mentoring me. Then I stepped out of the office after they said I could leave and felt the warm tears of disappointment slide without hesitation.

The last time I felt this way was almost a year and a half ago. This hurt just as much––if not more. I know it sounds so trivial and immature to read this, maybe not even relatable on any level but right now, sitting in the crowded library over finals week, it’s taking me every ounce of self-control not to break down in tears again.

Maybe I’m in over my head. Maybe I’m not cut out for this. Maybe I’m never going to be good enough and that this dream is too big.

Maybe this is a sign for me to just quit.