“I” is for Intern … and there’s no “I” in Team

Another week is almost behind me. I like 4 day weeks because the weekend starts Thursday night for me! It makes my summer at least a little more like summer vacation, even though this is surely no vacation.

This week I had a little more to work on.  Nothing glamorous, but finally I feel like I’m doing intern tasks. I’ve gotten over the idea that I’m going to really be able to contribute regularly or importantly. In a big market station like this one, every person works on their own projects. They don’t have time (or make time) to help people, they need to focus their energy on the task at hand. The newsroom functions just fine every day of the year without interns, so finding things for us to do is really more of a hassle than a help.

Recently, however, there have been a couple things I’ve been able to help with.  The last hour of last Thursday, I typed up feedback notes from a meeting. It was a pretty big stack of papers. I’m sure the person who assigned the task to me would have been very capable of doing it in his own time, but with all the other things he had to do, typing up notes would be a low priority. So, since I was here and available, I helped him get through that task faster and move forward with it.  There was also a glitch with the software that reporters and producers use to write their scripts. There was a reporter out on location, and his laptop wasn’t allowing him to access the software. He called the station, and I was able to transcribe his script into the program for the show. 

This week started pretty discouraging. Monday was pretty tense … I’m not sure why, but people were very tense and snapping at each other. Frightening. Rachel and I decided we needed cupcakes as an after work pick-me-up treat. She found this delightful cupcake place on Massachusetts Ave. and we enjoyed our dessert and some much needed conversation.

Tuesday began some more improvement. As I was getting my lunch, I was stopped and asked if I was busy with something. “Not right now.” One of the sunrise reporters was on his way home (he gets to the station at 3:30am) and had an interview scheduled for the afternoon.  He needed someone to head out with a photographer and interview someone from Indianapolis Public Schools about their graduation rates.  Finally! A chance to do something useful. So that afternoon, I went out with a reporter and kept reminding myself that I’ve interviewed lots of people before. He had adequately prepared me, gave me background information, even gave me a list of questions. The woman we talked to had a good relationship with the station and was very easy to interview. When we got back, I had to listen to the interview and type up her responses with the time so that when the reporter came in the next morning, it would be easy for him to write the story and get everything done by 5:00AM. The next day, he thanked me and said everything had worked out really well.  He also said that there might be need or opportunity to do this again in the future, and I told him I was more than happy to! So hopefully, I’ll be able to help again with something simple like this again.

For the last half of the week (yesterday and today), one of the other interns, Brittney, actually gave me something to do.  She had been helping the sunrise producer update information on schools in the area to see if they are up to anything new and just to make sure the information we had on file was accurate.  Early afternoon, she came over to me looking a little overwhelmed. She explained the project, and showed me a huge stack of papers.  There are a lot of schools to get ahold of. So since then, I’ve been helping her try to get everything in order. It’s turned into a two (or more) day project simply because it’s not always easy to get ahold of the schools, or they don’t have all the information available off hand. I think we got about half done yesterday, and since Brittney doesn’t work Thursday and Friday, I told her I’d keep working on it today and see if I could make more of a dent in this stack.

Today I also got to conduct man-on-the-street interviews for a reporter. I was nervous. I hate randomly approaching people … it feels so bothersome and intrusive. It was for a long term project that will air mid-July called the Generation Project. The anchor/reporter who is in charge of the project either couldn’t do the interviews himself or didn’t want to. The photographer told me every reporter hates MOS interviews … especially when it’s a tough question like a policy issue that has to be explained. Luckily, the question I had to ask was relatively easy, albeit vague. The question was, “what is a generation?” There was no right or wrong answer, we were just interested in what people of different ages, genders, and ethnicity had to say about it.  We got some interesting and diverse responses. It was a good experience, and stretched me further. It took a lot of boldness to talk to all those strangers, but the photographer who went with me was extremely helpful and talented. Again, not a glamorous job. It was passed off to me because if I hadn’t been around, the photographer would have had to go on his own. It wasn’t an important enough assignment to even send a reporter.

This is what interns are supposed to do. Little tasks that aren’t necessarily crucial or timely. We do the things that others would like to do, but don’t have time for. We do the things that have little sense of urgency. I’m okay with this. It still doesn’t fill my day, all these little projects don’t always have enough weight to fill 30 hours a week, but I’ve still been keeping up with the news, observing story selection, and reading scripts. It’s not fulfilling, but I keep having to remind myself that I’m just an intern. We are the lowest on the totem pole of people in the newsroom. We’re overlooked, ignored, rarely acknowledged.  The news team is in place … and there’s no “I” in team.

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