Surviving Your Hometown Return for the Summer
I’ve never had a good poker face, and my internship coordinator, Dr. Mac, knew it after about 30 seconds of talking to me.
Dr. Mac was the go-to guy if you were seeking professional experience in the news industry. I went into his office with visions of myself working at a metropolitan newspaper for the summer. So when he told me ever so enthusiastically that he could get me an internship at my hometown newspaper, my face just fell.
My hometown of Silver City, N.M., has a population just over 10,000. My parents had subscribed to the local newspaper for as long as I could remember. Of course, that meant I had heard people in the community criticize the newspaper all through my childhood.
Plus, I had spent the entire previous summer away from home and living on my own. I felt like I was taking a step back.
“Trust me, this will be really great experience for you,” Dr. Mac had said. “Besides, you don’t have any previous experience, so you have to start somewhere.”
Dr. Mac was 100 percent correct. If you find yourself in a similar situation — returning home and saddling in for the doldrums of summer — maybe what I learned from my experience will be helpful.
Industry Experts Are Everywhere
A lot of times, when you grow up in a place, you feel like you’re stuck there and the whole rest of the world is moving and progressing while you’re exactly where you’ve always been. You assume that everyone else who lives in your town has that same feeling of being stuck.
It took me interning at our local newspaper to realize that wasn’t the case. For the first time ever, I wrapped my head around the idea that some professionals sought out our mountain community because they liked the locale. They weren’t any less professional than industry experts working in a larger market.
Small Operations Are Great Teaching Grounds
In Silver City, we had one copy editor and every piece of content in the daily newspaper had to pass her approval. All the writers were required to print out physical copies of their stories and submit them for her edits. She marked them up and returned them to the writers to make corrections.
At larger publications with more staff, a team of copy editors divide the story load and make all the corrections electronically themselves.
Since I was correcting every single one of my own mistakes, I learned more in one week at the paper than I did in a whole semester of a copy-editing class in college. And I’m sure other small businesses in other industries have similar benefits, if you choose to look at it that way.
Small-town Student Interns Have More Opportunities
If I’d been working at a larger publication, I may have been reduced to writing fluff stories that only ran on inside pages of the paper. But by working at a small paper, I regularly had front page stories and I got to cover some big news.
In fact, a lot of smaller businesses use summer student interns as a way to provide some relief for their full-time staff who are working diligently year round.
I befriended a lot of the other writers in our newsroom, and that worked to my benefit because I was able to help them out with a lot of big stories when they were stretched thin.
Living on the edges of the Gila National Forest, we had a reporter, Steve, who regularly wrote about environmental issues. One day, he told me there was a big gathering to discuss the latest issues surrounding the reintroduction of the Mexican wolf into the area. It was a hot topic with ranchers and environmentalists divided on the issue, and Steve let me cover it. The story made for a great example of my work when it was time for me to start my professional career.
Everybody on a Small Staff Has Multiple Roles
With our small staff, all of the writers got accustomed to taking photos to go with their stories. This was fun for me because I also gained experience as a published photographer.
Taking on these other tasks can be really beneficial for your professional career because a) it gives you an opportunity to try something new that you might like better than what you originally set out to do, and b) it gives you a deeper level of understanding into what goes into the other job responsibilities related to your primary job.
All in all, I had a great summer working in my hometown. I met a lot of really wonderful professionals and I have the utmost respect for what they do.