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Pandemic brings new challenges to community journalism

By Megan Wehring

College students are expected to have at least one internship under their belt before they graduate. What happens when life gets in the way and that just seems impossible?

I was a full-time journalism student, involved at my university’s radio station while also working a part-time job to pay monthly rent. There was nothing left for me to give at that point. Nobody talks about the work-life balance when in college. We sit in class for most of the day and work through the night. We just have to roll with the punches on our own.

My senior year rolled in and the determination to find a job after college hit me. Surprisingly enough, I was barely qualified and respectively declined offers became my middle name. My confidence shattered.

Then, one Tuesday morning at the station, I received an unexpected call. Stunned to read Hays Free Press on the screen, I immediately answered. Offered a full-time internship to cover the most important issues in the county, I was ready to pursue my journalism dreams right out of college.

Dow Jones News Fund and South Texas Press Association generously made this happen. Imagine being offered a job by a group of people who have never even met you. The words “surreal” and “excited ”couldn’t even begin to explain it.

Pandemic summer

When accepting the job offer, interning in a full-blown pandemic did not come to mind until my first day. Journalists are now considered essential workers. We work tirelessly to share necessary information with the public.

Now, we are in a new virtual reality. On-site interviewing and reporting are long gone. City council and school board meetings are held over Zoom. What’s next? We’ve adjusted our lives greatly around the COVID-19 virus for the past few months. We even wear face masks with business casual.

While many are prompted to stay at home, I have the in-office exposure Monday through Thursday every week. Interns should have the opportunity to sit in the newsroom. They will learn more just by being around their superiors at work.

Why journalism?

From a young age, we are asked: what do you want to be when you grow up? Common answers are teacher, doctor or maybe even astronaut. I shook my head out of uncertainty for the future. Toward the end of high school, I finally caught onto the idea that writing was more of a calling than just a gift.

Storytelling. That’s what journalists do. We are given a beat and we give everything to have that story in our editor’s hands-on deadline, if not before. We are equipped with a natural toolbox to tell all sides of a story. We are the voice of the voiceless.

Megan Wehring served Barton Publications in a crazy summer, producing so many interesting stories. While other interns stayed at home, she was in the office every day, writing, taking what photos she could during a pandemic, and honing her skills. She will be missed by the staff and, most likely, our readers

About Author

Megan Navarro (formerly Wehring) graduated from Texas State University in May 2020 with a bachelor's degree in journalism and mass communication. In June 2020, she started a summer internship at the Hays Free Press/News-Dispatch through the Dow Jones News Fund and Texas Press Association. She then earned her way to a reporter position later that summer and now, she serves as the editor of the newspaper. Working for a small publication, Navarro wears multiple hats. She has various responsibilities including managing a team of reporters, making editorial decisions, overseeing social media posts, fact checking, writing her own articles and more. Navarro has a heart for storytelling and she believes that journalists are equipped to share the stories that are important to the community.

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