When I first arrived at my internship at the Courier Post, each new person that I met or rode along with on assignment asked me to some effect, “Why journalism?”. Each time, I told them I want to be a journalist because I enjoy the thrill of researching an article, like talking to new, interesting people, and genuinely enjoy writing. Most, if not everybody, encouraged my decision and told me good luck. The one person who had slight doubts about journalism and his future in it “retired” from journalism and moved on to something in either business or law. Positive or negative, everybody I met taught me something new.
Even though he left the newsroom about a week after I arrived, Lucas Murray left a huge impression on me. He was the first person with whom I went on assignment, and we went to Camden. The two most important things he told me about Camden were to stay to major roads with lots of streetlights and to act like you belong. If you are on a major, well-lit road, shady people are less likely to bother you because there are people around. According to Lucas, the shady people also like to bother the weak and scared. If you act confident like you are supposed to be there, you are also less likely to be bothered. Through Lucas, I also learned that you need to love what you are doing to have a future in journalism. He ended up not loving it and left to do something else.
My first day, June 5th, Lucas along with a few other reporters, demonstrated how to make a dull story more interesting. We were sent to cover the destruction of the Sears building on Admiral Wilson Boulevard. We talked to the representatives of Campbell’s Soup and took photos and video of the building destruction. He was going to make it something short for the web until the two elderly women showed up. Lucas, along with every other journalist there, quickly surrounded the one woman who was willing to talk. The nostalgic woman gave the story something that to which other people could relate. She told everybody how she got her wedding dress at that building, and she would go there to hang out with her friends when she was younger.
One of the biggest lessons I learned is that patience really is a virtue. I found myself waiting for at least two weeks for my desk phone to be fixed. That was frustrating because I was using my editor, Phaedra Trethan’s cell phone. She would write down her phone number and pin number on a sticky note that I returned at the end of my shift and had to request everyday. When my phone was fixed finally, I found myself constantly waiting for specific people to call me back. The week of July 17 – July 19, I waited for Freeholder Jeff Nash’s phone call for two days. The Cooper River Park renovations are his big project, and everybody I talked to wanted me to talk to Nash. Something that was only supposed to be a news brief, ended up being a short story because Nash had great things to say. Another time I felt my patience was tested was the week of July 11 – July 13, the week Phaedra was on vacation. When Phaedra is busy, I then report to Jim Walsh. Jim usually shows up around 10:30 or so, so I went to Tammy Paolino to see if there was anything she wanted me to work on anything. It was a very slow week because Tammy had to get approval from Chris Mitchell, who is now Editor-in-Chief, and it was my first week back from my accident. I made so many phone calls that week and about half of them were to places out of state because Ms. Kimberly Camp has traveled and worked at various locations across the country. Despite having to wait most of Wednesday to get an assignment and set up an appointment to interview and take pictures of Ms. Camp, the wait was definitely worth it. I got my first features article published, and it ended up being one of my favorites of all of the stories I’ve written so far.
Overall, I have really enjoyed my time at the Courier Post. I get so giddy when I see my name in the paper, and I instantly put it on Instagram. I ended up learning a lot, like AP style tips, about how long certain print inches are, and that writing for news and features aren’t too dissimilar; I’m also still learning new things everyday. The staff members I work with are all very nice to me, and they don’t seem bothered when I ask them questions. So far, I have about four or five good clips and several other clips that could help me get a job in the future. Having the Courier Post name attached to me when I called community members gained me more respect than if I had called saying I was a student journalist.
One of my favorite parts of my internship was working with Phil Dunn the week of June 26. Phil invited me along on his LEAP Academy assignment, and we shared a byline. It was very different working with another person on a story, but it was also interesting. I think working with Phil was one of my favorite parts because he reached out to me and wanted me to get out of the office more. It also showed me a different side to teamwork. Since we were on different sides of the office, I would send him paragraphs, quotes, and notes that I thought were relevant to the story. He asked me what I meant, and I explained it to him. He even let me see the progress of the story before I left. It was nice that he actively reached out to me to include me in his story. Along my trip with Phil, I also learned that I should always carry some form of ID with me. When we visited LEAP Academy on June 26, they didn’t want to let me in at first, but everybody kept a close eye on me the whole time. I honestly did not think anything of it at the time, but when I’m on my own, I will definitely have my ID with me at all times.
So far, I only have one real complaint about my internship: my scheduled hours. I work 9:00 a.m. to 1:30 p.m. It is not a bad schedule at all, but sometimes my mornings start off really slow. Sometimes, it is hard to reach certain people because they are not available when I am in the office, and a lot of the time, they call after I leave and talk to my editor. That’s a bit frustrating at times, but I have come to accept it. When I leave, I let Phaedra know if I’m waiting for any calls, and she will usually get a quote or two from them to stick in my story. The scheduling is probably my fault because I have work 3 p.m. – 8 p.m. Wednesday through Friday, and I am at campus on Mondays and Tuesdays for my radio shows.
One thing that bothered me a bit in the beginning was that I was constantly assigned lake or park stories. I got a few “parks beat” jokes, but now I really appreciate those stories. Not only did my first two land on the front page, but I also developed a really good relationship with Camden County Spokesman Dan Keashen. During the week of June 19th, Keashen gave me his cell phone number and told me to call him there first. To me, it seemed really weird to call a town official’s cell phone, but after the second or third time calling his office after he gave me his cell number, he insisted on me calling his cell phone first. It’s not as weird calling Keashen on his cell phone anymore, and he also recognizes my office number. He’s super nice, and he will get back to me in a very timely manner with information. On June 20th, I even sparked an investigation because Keashen didn’t know anything about the hundreds of dead carp in Runnemede Lake. If I stay in South Jersey after I graduate, he would be a good contact with whom to keep in touch.
I would recommend the Courier Post to anybody else in a heartbeat. Everybody there is really friendly and encouraging. My editor tries to send me out on an assignment at least once a week. Phaedra even helps me get started in the right direction by telling me certain people I should call for my story. I’m not done with my hours, but I have at least a dozen bylines and a few other short news briefs. All of the editors are also willing to let you jump around to different departments. I only did one feature story, and I had the opportunity to do things for the web if I wanted to. You learn a lot about journalism, and you meet a lot of cool characters along the way. You get to talk to people who are really passionate about their topic, and you also get to talk to people who don’t want to talk at all. Everybody was more than willing to answer any questions I had, and they also ask for your opinion on certain topics as well. This was a good experience at a newsroom, and it is right next door to Camden, so there is usually something that is happening.