On Monday, Memorial Day, I got my first weekday break from the newsroom. It was much-needed since I had put enough time into calling every town in two of the local counties asking for information on their Memorial Day Celebrations so that I could compile a list of towns and their celebration–along with the other intern–for the news paper. It was time-consuming, but we got it done a week before memorial day.
Except for the fact that my friends and I discovered a new park in the county we live in, my entire Memorial Day weekend was spent watching reruns of Grey’s Anatomy, and I got up to episode 126–the end of Season 6. Just enough to get caught up on the drama of Season Seven. Later on into the week, I would learn that there are rumors that two of the main actors of the show are threatening to leave if the show doesn’t get better and that Season 8 may be the last season of the show. But that may all just be cyber gossip. I have no time to think about that now.
When I returned to work that week, I got an assignment. I had to call people who participated in a poll about partisanship in New Jersey and ask them what they think about the democratic and republican parties. Most people either were not home or did not want to allow their political opinions to be published in the newspaper, or were just plain rude and yelled at me for calling them. Most of the people who did answer said that they were skeptical of both parties, or that the two parties have to work out their differences and start working together. I only got one angry response from a man who thought all illegal immigrants were from Mexico and that they should go back there. He also said that the democrats were communists and President Obama is giving too much money to illegal immigrants.
I was also given another job that week. I had to call the sheriff offices of two counties to ask if there was a shortage of ammunition in these counties because of the reports that many places across the country were facing a shortage of ammunition because of the conflicts in the Middle East. It turned out the none of our local police departments were facing ammunition shortages.
I also got another assignment that week. A feature! A real feature! No press release, just a story that I can only write by interviewing people. The story is about a Tae-Kwon Do school for special needs children.
I was excited about this story. The only thing that hindered my joy was that I could not go to the place and interview the people in person because as an intern I am not allowed should something happen to me. How can I write a feature if I am not there to see what’s going on–if I’m not there to record the sights, smells, and other observations of the place, atmosphere and mood?
P.S. “The Editor” has not lectured us for about two weeks; it’s scary. The other intern has gone to South America for a class trip; she’ll be back on my last day. I have no one to talk to on my lunch break now. Another intern has arrived and I do not know his name. I have not introduced myself. I’ll call him Intern # 3.
Week Three. We wanted to write; we got to write, or should I say rewrite press releases. Maybe not exactly rewrite, but it felt like it. My job for the week was to write two previews about events I had heard about from press releases. One event was called Bio-Blitz, an annual program in which scientists, naturalists, amateur naturalists, and the public gathered together at one of the county’s park to take a survey of the biodiversity around the urban and suburban areas of New Jersey. The other event was about the Sourland Music Festival, held near the Sourland Mountains of New Jersey.
Both events sounded picturesque so you could imagine how frustrated I was that instead of going to these places and taking notes on the natural beauties of New Jersey that most people are completely oblivious to, I was confined at a desk, on a chair, next to a computer–interviewing people and hoping that I could give my article a taste of the places without being there in person. Instead of being pretentious, I opted to use a slightly newsy approach to the story with just a little hint of creativity. Since I have never been to the Sourlands, I thought it would be fair to start the story on this note, “The Sourland Mountains will soon be alive with the sound of jazz and bluegrass….” This was a big improvement from my lede about the Bio-Blitz event which was a straightforward, “On this date, Union County, which boasts the fifth oldest park system in the nation will host its 8th annual Bio-Blitz event.”
I did my interviews, got quotes from people who were looking forward to seeing their events broadcast in the newspaper. Imagine how embarrassing it was when they asked me when the article would get published and all I could say was I didn’t know because it is all up to “The Editor” who had barely said a word since “The Revolution” took place. In spite of that, the people gave good information and provided even more useful quotes.
The other intern and I also got a taste of writing breaking news. While we were busy writing our stories, we were interrupted by an announcement from the calm-looking editor and “The Editor” about a protest outside a building. We were told to cover the story. The protest involved about 12 dozen state workers, which were just a fraction of the many state workers that had gathered to protest at many places across the state. They were demanding that Governor Chris Christie legitimize their right to negotiate their contracts and to meet with him.
I was excited because it was my first opportunity to use my voice recorder. I talked to three women about their reason for protesting and all of them agreed that they wanted the governor to listen to them. I felt even extra important when the other intern and I were preparing the story and I suggested that we had to get the governor’s side of the story. I got to call the governor’s office that day and that was the coolest thing that I had done since the internship began. It would have been even cooler if the governor had called me back before our 5:00 deadline. But we got our quotes and we got our story.