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Growing from experience

By C.J. Vetter

Frankly, when I signed up for this internship, I only knew the bare minimum. I knew that the Hays Free Press was looking for an intern and that it would be a paid one. However, I had no idea of the experience and opportunity that was awaiting me. I also had no idea that I was signing up for a 10-day workshop in Austin. So, imagine my surprise when I got an email a week or two into the job, telling me my arrival time.

As any good journalist does, I had to fact check. I called the person who emailed me and she seemed just as surprised at my quick response. After multiple confirmation emails and calls, I prepared myself.  When that day came, and I drove up to Austin, my amazement only grew.          

Admittedly, the first few days were a whirlwind of APStyle questions, networking, lectures and meetings with incredible journalists, all on the cutting edge of the newsroom. We heard about the life of journalists, how they balanced family and work and some of the hard-hitting stories they’ve covered. We learned all about social media, copy writing and how to both micro and macro edit (there’s a big difference!) Even now, my head is still spinning as I try to  get everything to settle into place.

There was also the physical and emotional variety too. It was a strange yet exciting feeling to be staying in a new place and meeting new people. All the instructors were wonderfully wise and frankly, quite funny. But most of all, they helped me refine what I had learned in college. Beth Butler and Bradley Wilson, both of whom are amazing instructors, really helped me grow and develop. The same could be said for the staff at the Hays Free Press, who I look forward to working and growing further with.

I also learned from both Mark Grabowski, an experienced lawyer, and Griff Singer, a retired senior lecturer and the man who helped direct coverage of the Kennedy assassination. I couldn’t think of a better group of people to learn and work under. By the time we had reached the final three days, I was prepared for the biggest challenge of the workshop: Three days, three papers. 

We had to produce three whole papers for the Southwest Journalist. Hours were spent copy editing, designing pages, downloading photos, uploading them again, writing captions, creating line charts and even writing a few stories ourselves. By the end of it, we were both proud and exhausted. I couldn’t recall a time I had put so much mental energy towards one subject at a time but there we were, as a team, putting something great together.

I understand that as a journalist, I still have a long road ahead of me and a lot to learn. I’m going to make mistakes and I’m going to have my stories edited for the best of the paper. But with everything I’ve learned so far, and with the support and guidance of everyone behind me, I know that with perseverance, diligence and integrity, I can accomplish the goals I’ve set for myself. 

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