Thank You and Goodbye
Well, it’s finally over. No, not the debt crisis. (Good luck with that, Obama.) My internship.
Today was my last day at the newspaper. It was the last day I would sit at my cubicle, the last day I would type up an article on Fake Word and the last day I would confusedly wander into the photo lab looking for help (or ketchup).
Another chapter has closed, rather abruptly and without much notice (except by me and maybe the understaffed arts section).
I wrote fifteen articles for no pay (forecast: my future), and instead the editors provided me with knowledge, experience, connections and an awkward headshot that I will do my best to keep away from the Voice office.
I began in May as a frightened little intern with a spiral-bound reporter’s notebook and no idea what I was getting myself into. Now, it’s August, and I’ve gone through three notebooks, $300 worth of gas for my car and withdrawals from sleep and sanity. But has it been worth it? Of course.
I had two and a half months of bylines, funny taglines, super interesting and less than super interesting stories to cover. I went to an Irish folk festival and a production of “Spring Awakening” for free. I was asked to ride in a boat during Providence’s hit event WaterFire and write a first-person perspective of the volunteers’ jobs. I wrote a few personal essays, more in the style of my writing. (With sharp or stupid side comments put inside parentheses after a mundane statement to spice it up.)
I’m grateful for my editors’ patience and advice. I now have more friends acquaintances people who might say hi to me if we bumped into each other outside of the office. I even had a fan email me to say “great article” after I wrote the WaterFire narrative and gave me no information about himself whatsoever. Thanks, random reader, for your support.
I’ve met fascinating and talented people on my interviews, which might be one of my favorite things about journalism. You get to interact with remarkable characters and learn about their lives, their careers, their interests. It’s inevitable that you learn new things by talking to strangers for two hours. I now know what gouache paint is, who in my town likes to dress up for Harry Potter premieres and what it’s like to live with a Seeing Eye dog.
I’d like to think I improved my people skills. Having to constantly email, call or hassle people in public for an interview or a quote has really worked toward strengthening how I interact with others. Except for that time I tried to ask someone’s grandpa at an elderly home if he knew what a Kindle was. He didn’t even know what I was saying. So I tried increasing my volume and making buffoon-like hand gestures.
“I’m a reporter at the newspaper (points across the street). I’m writing a story about e-books (points to book). What’s your opinion on the Kindle? (Makes scrolling motion in air with finger).”
The gentleman in question turned to his friend and yelled, “Do you know what she’s saying?”
He shook his head and put his cards down on the table (literally – they were playing Go Fish).
The first man turned back to me and said (I kid you not), “Do you want money?”
I stopped and considered this for a moment, but then decided that stealing money from an old, deaf man might not be the best thing I could do in this situation.
“No, thank you,” I said and then walked out of the elderly home.
Other than that, my dealings with people have run pretty smoothly.
On the down side, I didn’t meet any celebrities – unless you count the accordion player outside a local ice cream shop. I don’t think he’s gone mainstream yet, but his cover of “Michael Row Your Boat” might be on iTunes. And we didn’t so much meet as exchange a smile and awkward nod of approval at my choice of Chocolate Peanut Butter Cup.
Then again, I was covering stories for my local newspaper and our town isn’t really a celebrity stomping ground. Though, fun fact: Bobby Brown was arrested at my high school back in 2007, and this summer, Michael Todd, bassist for Coheed & Cambria, was arrested for robbing a drugstore that I used to frequent. (The band was opening for Soundgarden two towns over.)
So we’re a good place for shady celebrities to commit crimes. That’s pretty sweet.
Ah, I may have lied to you about one little part. While my internship was unpaid, I did receive a check for one assignment because it was freelance and out of state. This was the first piece of writing that I have ever been paid for. I freaked out as I was writing it, thinking it had to be over-the-top-amazing because it would go down in history as “My First Paid Piece.” I went through at least five drafts, highlighting and deleting sections like crazy. Finally, I handed it in to my editor. He didn’t like it. I rewrote it, adding his suggestions. He loved it. Phew. It had a cool photo spread courtesy of one of their staff photographers. I felt awesome.
The thing about being paid for one assignment is you want more. It’s like my scratch ticket addiction. (I do not actually have a gambling problem.) One isn’t enough. Five bucks? What’s that? I want fifty. Ten cards and ten bucks later and you’re losing money rather than making it. Patience, my friend. You will get there one day. For now, I must go back to slaving over pieces for the love, not the money. I guess I can manage that…for now.
So, as I finished editing my last articles, making my last phone calls and thanking the staff for having me, I felt a mix of emotions. Relief at finishing the tasks set before me and at having a few weeks of free time before heading back to Conn (so soon). Fright at the lady who was standing behind the bathroom door as I opened it to leave. (She screamed. I jumped back in horror. We laughed and are now bffls. That last part is another lie.) And sadness at another closed door. (A figurative door this time.)
The walk from my desk down the hallway and out to the parking lot felt longer than usual today. The familiar sights will now be a distant memory – my summer at the newspaper, I’ll think, as I look back on my life years from now. What will I feel then? Will the next generation even know what a newspaper is? Who knows. For now, I’ll just sit back and enjoy my few weeks off because before I know it, we’ll all be back in the Voice office, swapping crazy summer stories and listening to the Biebs (if the EIC has any say over the playlist).
Rock on Camels and see you soon enough,