So I’m in the middle of the third day of my internship at the Ipswich News, and I’ve run out of things to do for a bit. It’s probably time to write this blog post then as I won’t get home until at least 7pm.
My first day (Tuesday) was pretty slow, as there was only one journalist in the office. I’d been told not to bother coming in on Monday as almost no-one would be here and I wouldn’t have much to do. (Naturally, instead of taking the public holiday off like any sane person would I went into 4ZZZ to do the news bulletin so I could make sure this rumour-busting story went to air).
But anyway. On Tuesday I got to go out with Brent, one of the journalists, and a photographer, to meet a man who discovered a new supernova from his backyard observatory. I took notes during the interview and wrote a story as if it were to go into the paper, which I will ask Brent to give me some feedback on.
The rest of Tuesday was pretty slow, but Brent gave me a couple of media releases to turn into 3 or 4-par stories (“briefs”). Last week I’d found some story leads, mostly for “what’s on” stories, from the Ipswich City Council website so I turned them into briefs as well and emailed one to Brent because if people were going to book for the event before the deadline it needed to go into this week’s paper.
On Wednesday I met Shannon, who was back from leave and who is the acting Editor. She and Brent gave me a couple of media releases to turn into briefs – in fact one of the releases was one of the stories I’d already written the night before, so that was handy.
Shannon asked me to compile a list of events happening for the school holidays. This is where my blogging experience and my looking for stories really paid off – I already knew where to look to find quite a few events, and after about 90 minutes I emailed her a really big list of events. Apparently Quest head office says this sort of list has to go into each paper so I was able to save the journalists a lot of work by getting that together.
Shannon was OK with me making outbound phone calls to chase up details, so that was useful – I did have to check some details in a couple of badly-written media releases.
Once I’d finished that, I dug deeper into the council website, and the Ipswich-related RSS feeds I’d put into my Google Reader account, and found ten different activities that I turned into briefs. Shannon told me that they are often short of briefs so what I was doing was quite useful. (Also, if you don’t know what an RSS feed is you MUST learn – click here to read the Wikipedia article and click here to get a brief rundown on why you should use it. Having this info at my fingertips and being able to quickly turn it into stories has been quite well appreciated, as far as I can tell).
I also wrote a bigger story on Wednesday, about the Australian Local Government Association launching its State of the Regions 2010-11 report. Of course I didn’t read the whole report but I had to grasp the main features of the Executive Summary, grab some figures from the appendix for the Moreton West region and do some quick Googling to confirm the sorts of industries that are “knowledge-based”. While this isn’t as rigourous as the sort of phone-calling and fact-checking Desley makes us do, it still needs a fair bit of knowledge to pump something like that out in 30-40 minutes so by the time I left on Wednesday I was feeling pretty confident.
On Thursday morning the Queensland Times, a local daily in semi-direct competition with the Ipswich News, had a story about a report on an incident when a boy was almost hanged at a local high school. I followed up with the Education Department and got their statement emailed to me. Since the story will be old news by next week I focused on the angle that Ipswich principals and teachers will be attending statewide safety training, and mentioning that staff from Laidley SHS were involved in planning new safety procedures for the Education Department.
Also in the morning, I went out to a child care centre that’s getting a makeover for free courtesty of a local hardware store. I wrote another dummy story and asked Shannon if she would take a look at it, but she ended up saying since she had been too busy to write up her version of the story she’ll probably use mine with a few changes (mainly adding direct quotes).
I’ve also written four more briefs, and three longer pieces for the real estate section: a property profile for the House of the Week and two stories based on media releases from home loan companies.
I think the thing that’s helped me most of all is being able to write the briefs they asked for, which gave the staff the confidence to hand over a few longer pieces for me to do. If you’re going to an internship next week, I suggest you immerse yourself in lots of little local events, write lots of little three-or-four par stories about them and have them ready to present as you go in.
It’s been a good week so far.