Internship Log: Getting Beyond the Who, What, When and Where and Getting to the Why

So I’ve been a naughty blogger the past month. I have plenty of excuses (moving into a new place, hectic work schedules, no money and having less time off) but at the end of the day, I’m not helping anyone by neglecting this blog. I’ve seen tons of blogs that began with regular posts, then petered out and were eventually abandoned. I don’t want that to happen with this blog. I’ve learned a ton about my writing voice just by blogging on a regular basis. It’s been incredibly refreshing to get away from what media critic Jay Rosen calls the “Voice from Nowhere”: essentially the journalistic cult that worships impartiality to a fault. While I’m not arguing that professionally-trained journalists are unnecessary (because that means I’ve made a huge mistake), I’ve caught myself identifying and at least attempting to stop my own bad journalistic habits.

As an intern, it can be a challenge to derive a greater meaning to a story because many of the stories that I’ve worked on in the past few weeks are either one-day stories, quick website updates or event coverage. More often than not, I only have enough time to work on the who, what, when and where, when I’m more interested in the why. Like I said before, it’s not like this a startling revelation to me – I didn’t expect to be thrust into into a kind of hardcore, Woodward-and-Bernstein-type reporting my first week on the job.

But I will admit that it can be difficult to go under the surface and really dig for a unique spin day after day, week after week. Sometimes it works out, like a story I wrote about the city’s annual Juneteenth celebration. Rather than do a typical, by-the-numbers event coverage, I tried to tie the event’s historical background of celebrating the end of slavery to a connection between the holiday and racism in Nevada, and it turned out ok. But for every story that tries to find a deeper meaning, I’ll end up with another story like this one, with little analysis and kind of boring.

It’s maddening to know that I possess the capacity to write at a level above boring event coverage, but seem to find myself falling back into those bad habits again and again. To be honest, the layover between quitting the Sagebrush and beginning this internship probably ‘softened’ me up a little bit in regards to producing lots of content in a short amount of time. But as the weeks go on, and I settle more into a rhythm of reporting and writing, I believe that I’ll create and find better stories. After all, it’s easy to make excuses (especially for not updating a blog), but none of that really matters. What matters are the results.

Internship Log: My 12-hour first day at the RGJ

What a goddamn first day. After arriving about half an hour early to the RGJ office, I was forced to play around with Twitter for about an hour until I was given a desk and a story to report. The story is a good one, dealing with a Southwest Reno neighborhood’s opposition to an opening youth drug rehabilitation center culminating in a protest yesterday and a meeting at Reno City Hall today. It felt nice to actually report again, rather than to regurgitate whatever scientific conference or mildly boring research awards the University deemed fit to show off. Don’t get me wrong, I enjoyed working at Media Relations very much, but there’s such a fundamental difference in the way a newsroom operates and a public relations firm operates. There is much more of a sense of urgency, a need to get all relevant sides and angles of a story right now, rather than in a week or two.

This difference was highlighted especially by the breaking news of a fire in Douglas County. Engrossed in my reporting, I ignored the escalating pace of the newsroom along with the sound of more and more phones ringing. Finally, an editor came over to my desk and essentially told me to drop whatever I was doing, and to figure out a way to Topaz Ranch Estates. To the fire. As I began packing my supplies and writing down directions, Brian Duggan turned around and said, “Welcome to the RGJ.”

The drive from the Gazette-Journal’s offices to the site of the fire takes about an hour and a half, give or take the traffic going through Carson City, Minden and any other small towns along the way. Though I attempted to drive with at least some regard to the speed limit, I could feel the adrenaline pumping through my body. It was the same feeling I had driving up to Galena High School during the Washoe Drive fire, and the same feeling driving through South Reno to get a closer look at the Caughlin Ranch Fire. Getting out of Carson City was the first time I saw the smoke from the blaze. From there, I would alternate between driving a handful of miles, stopping on the side of the road, jumping out to take a picture with my smartphone and then sending them out through email to the RGJ and on my personal Twitter account. When I arrived at the turn-off for Topaz Ranch, about 2 miles from the evacuation center, I finally got a good look at the inferno. It engulfed half the sky.

I spent about two hours at the community center, interviewing evacuees, taking more pictures of the fire, then slowly typing them out through my phone and emailing them back to the RGJ. All in all, I took about 15 pictures and found three good interviews during my time in Topaz Ranch, some of which were immediately posted to the RGJ site. Overall, I spent nearly 12 hours working, reporting and driving today, published photos and interviewed evacuees — all on my first day. Today, I’ll be focusing on the protest story as well as juggling whatever the news editors throw my way. What a goddamn first day. There’s nothing else I would rather do.