I just wanted to take a moment before my internship ended this afternoon to thank everyone at the Oklahoman for their guidance this summer during my internship.
The generosity and leadership displayed by the editors and staff here allowed me to further my skills. Over the last two months, I felt I was able to contribute in significant areas in the newsroom. I appreciate your time in answering all my (many) questions or taking time to mentor an intern.
A special thank yous to my fellow interns for all their kindness and generousity over the last two months. I worked with a lot of talented, amazing individuals. I sincerely wish you all the best of luck in whatever you decide to do in journalism or outside of it.
A huge thank you goes to my mentors Don Gammill and Richard Hall for always taking time even with deadlines or multiple projects to help guide, mentor and sharing any wisdom they had to offer for this intern.
Winston Churchill had this quote I feel sums up this phase of my young journalism career. “This isn’t the end. This isn’t even the beginning of the end. However, this is the end of the beginning.”
Thank you again for everything.
My internship is over and it’s time to reflect on what I’ve learned this summer. While I learned a lot between the copy and digital desks, I wanted to share some thoughts from my time on NewsOK.com. Here are five lessons I’ve learned from working on NewsOK.com that apply to both the website and life.
5. When it rains, it pours
Some days on the digital desk would be a breeze. I’d come in, moderate some comments, post some wire stories, change some widgets and it’d be nice and calm for the day.
And then other days would be a little tricky. Sometimes there’d be two breaking news items at the same time and you’d have to send two breaking news alerts and place the stories at the top of the website at the same time. Sometimes you’d get a bunch of wire content or comments that need to be moderated all at once, and you have to do it as quickly as you can. Sometimes AP would be extremely late at posting an important story like the Jerry Sandusky verdict and you have to improvise. Sometimes you’d have meetings to go to during all of this. Sometimes these things would all go wrong at the same time and you’d want to “rip your hair out and set it on fire,” as I often say (my high school yearbook advisor taught me that one).
Don’t rip your hair out and set it on fire, as I have never actually done. When it rains, it pours. Take a deep breath and power through it. As long as you are alive and the website works, it is OK.
4. Trial and error is the best learning process
They always say you’ll never know until you try. So when it comes to life and working on to the website, think of new ideas and just go for it. Just make sure you have a good, quick backup plan lined up in case something goes wrong (or if you’re working on the website, always keep the regions admin open).
3. Even intelligent people curse
Moderating comments on the website sounds like it’d be boring, but it was one of my favorite parts because it’s how I got to know our readers. Some people leave novels and others leave very short responses. Some people stay on topic and others will find any excuse to talk about whatever issue they really care about (spoiler alert: it’s usually health care, Oklahoma football or anything political). A few of the commenters are digital frenemies. They continue conversations across multiple articles and hold grudges like nobody’s business. They were my favorites.
But a good chunk of people curse, including the intelligent people with good arguments. Nothing breaks my heart more than having to delete a good, thoughtful comment just because someone ends it by calling someone else a name or curses. Even intelligent people curse, but sometimes we have to delete their comments, too.
2. Adding Bill Hader makes anything better
When I was running the site on my first Saturday, I was thinking of some creative ways to get people excited about the NBA Playoffs. We typically post one story an hour to Facebook and everything else automatically tweets. But I noticed that our Saturday social media traffic was pretty slow compared to the other days of the week, so I decided to switch it up.
I went through one of our reader-submitted photo galleries of how people Thunder Up. I found a picture of Bill Hader, who is a Tulsa native and is one of the best “Saturday Night Live” cast members of all time (in my opinion, of course.) So I posted the picture of Bill Hader to Facebook and Twitter and asked people how they were Thundering Up for the NBA Finals, and reminded them that they could still submit photos to our gallery. The photo got a bunch of likes on Facebook, and we got plenty of retweets and replies on Twitter. We also got more than 20 photo submissions before I left that morning, which is really good for a Saturday. People loved seeing a celebrity Thunder Up, and I loved having the extra photos to add to the gallery. When in doubt, add Bill Hader.
1. Trying to figure out what went wrong isn’t nearly as important as fixing it
In life and online, things will always go wrong. Code will break, stories will go missing, and widgets will magically double. Sometimes it takes you five seconds to know what went wrong, and sometimes it takes you an hour. Sometimes it’ll take even longer. While finding out what went wrong is important, it isn’t nearly as important as fixing it. This doesn’t mean that you shouldn’t try to find out what went wrong, because you definitely should. But you can’t exactly leave a broken widget on the homepage for an hour waiting for an answer from someone else. Sometimes you need to improvise and come up with a Plan B and deal with the detective work later. As Tim Gunn says, “Make it work.”
General James Harden salutes you. The Thunder and Team USA men’s basketball player posted this photo on his Instagram feed Friday afternoon.
His feed is filled with awesomeness caught in the form of photographs. You can take a gander at what Thunder hoop star Kevin Durant wore yesterday here.
It’s hard to believe that my internship is already over. Eight weeks may seem like a long time, but a few bug bites and a speeding ticket later, here I am saying my goodbyes.
This summer, I traveled to just about every corner of the state – Quartz Mountain, Seminole, Okemah, Miami. I am affectionately known as the “roadtrip guy” in the photo department.
I am grateful that I had this summer as an opportunity to tell the story of summer in Oklahoma.
I picked out my 10 favorite images that I think captured what summer was in Oklahoma this year.
Hopefully this will not be my last blog post for The Oklahoman and NewsOK, but it is for now.
Good luck to my fellow interns in their pursuits of journalism and life.
Those who wish to follow my blog posts can do so here.
It’s my last day as a local desk intern at The Oklahoman. I’ve never been good with goodbyes, so I’m going to keep this short and sweet. Here are some things I’ve learned this summer.
- Wherever I am in the world, there’s going to be someone kind enough to help me out.
- I can be miles and miles from home and actually survive.
- Singing in the car is a great stress reliever. Eric Church’s “Springsteen” was a summer favorite.
- I’m leaving this summer with a more conversational style of writing.
- As a journalist, I might have to dig through someone’s trash to find the facts.
- The story isn’t in my notes, it’s in my head.
- Compassion is important in journalism.
- Blue-green algae is toxic, especially to children and animals.
- Friday, Saturday and Sunday are the busiest days for 911 calls.
- The scissor-tailed flycatcher is Oklahoma’s state bird.
This is only a taste of what I’ve learned. If I listed everything, I’d be writing forever. I’ve enjoyed my time in Oklahoma and at the paper. I’m excited about what my future holds. Soon, I’ll be “Back Home Again in Indiana.”
Earlier this month, fellow intern Bryce Arens and I took a trip to a town in Southeastern Oklahoma called Indianola.
Bryce was writing a story about a new law that would change the rules of hog hunting, so we wanted to get a closer look at the people who participate.
We met Johnny Heskett and his “hunting buddy” Josh Kinsey at a McDonald’s in McAlister and followed them to their hunting spot on the South Canadian River near Indianola.
Bryce and I sat in the back of Johnny’s ATV and we toured the river bed looking for spots to set up traps.
Johnny’s recipe for hog bait was a mixture of corn, maple syrup and diesel fuel. He insisted that the diesel fuel was sweet, and that he had, in fact, tried it.
Once the sun went down, we headed back to Johnny’s truck, where he then informed us that he and Josh were going to sleep in the back of his truck.
“Y’all can sleep in your car, find motel, whatever you want to do.”
With the nearest motel 30 miles away, Bryce and I decided that sleeping in the OPUBCO company car was our only option.
The temperature was staggering.
For hours we tossed and turned in our tight sleeping quarters, covered in blankets, desperately trying to avoid the mosquitos that we could hear buzzing around our heads.
After 3-4 hours went by, we turned on the car, rolled up the windows, turned on the air-conditioning, and we were asleep within minutes.
We woke up early to go check the traps, all the way looking for tracks near the river.
Johnny took us on a crazy ride through the heavily wooded area on the upper bank of the river, driving a full speed, with nothing to protect Bryce and me from the endless branches and countless bugs that I had never seen before.
All in all, no hogs were to be found at the traps.
Bryce and I struggled to make it back to Oklahoma City without falling asleep on the road.
When we got back and both had a chance to bathe, we both found out that our bodies were covered with chiggers.
Everyone that I have ever talked to about chiggers has told me that they burrow into your skin and don’t leave.
Someone suggested that Bryce and I put clear nail polish on the chigger bites, to suffocate them.
I was later informed that using nail polish to cure chigger bites is an old wives’ tale, and that chiggers do not burrow. The affected areas take roughly two weeks to heal.
Bryce and I experienced what I imagine is what Hell is like… and we didn’t even see any hogs!
In the end, we did have a great time with these guys, and we definitely got to see what it’s like to be a hog hunter.
Even without the hogs, I think we told a good story.
A summer in Oklahoma City: Thunder basketball, sweltering heat, the Oklahoman, awesome roommates. Almost 800 miles, or 13 hours, west of my hometown in Indiana. A place where Chandler jokes to Monica, “I’d sooner be in any other state” (ironically, that’s the episode I was watching with my parents when I told them I had a call back from Joe Hight about the internship).
But it was an awesome summer. I knew I wanted to apply because I believed in what the paper was doing with multimedia and engagement on the website, with its own broadcast studio and its emphasis on in-depth and investigative reporting.
I did more work with Excel than I ever thought I would. And I didn’t always do it right, so thanks to the people who helped me catch a few mistakes.
I learned from the people around me what it means to be an online editor and how reporters can make their job easier and how we can contribute to the Web content. For example, a digital news editor suggested, as long as I was tweeting about a story, why not blog about it, too?
I love education reporting, so I was lucky to sit beside the higher ed reporter and near the common ed reporter. Hearing them on the phone reminded me why I love these beats in the first place. I’ll admit, I like to write about numbers and about new policies. But what I like to read is the stories behind it and the people affected, and of course, so do the rest of our readers. It was a good reminder that weaving facts with a narrative is really the best plan.
I learned a lot from the other interns, too. RJ, thanks for the book and for always bringing your passion for writing and wanting to share your knowledge with people around you. Olivia, thanks for reminding me that reporters need to shoot video, too, and we need to get outside our comfort zones sometimes. Arielle, for showing us the importance of everything digital, showing us how to be witty and engaging online. Celia, for reminding us to be thoughtful and for always having awesome back stories to share.
I feel spoiled here. I’ve said that to my family and family several times the last few weeks. Working eight hours instead of around the clock is a nice change after the schedule I kept in college. Being around young, newly hired reporters is encouraging. The programs like Intern OKC, workshops like SABEW, and opportunities like having a writing coach show that the company cares a lot about their employees, and I really appreciate that.
The next few days will be full of many lasts – last intern lunch, last time fishing for your press badge at the gate, last Braum’s trip before too long.
Thanks for making it a great summer I’ll always remember.
Let me start by apologizing for not posting nearly as much as I told myself I would. Once a week turned into about once a month. I know these goodbye posts are probably all going to be the same, unless I’m awkwardly the only one that posts one. So I want to make mine more of a thank you note to the Oklahoman and everyone here because I have more gratitude for them than I think they realize. So here we go:
Whenever I started high school, I had no idea journalism was something I wanted to pursue. I’m not going to complain and say I went to a poor and underprivileged high school, but I will say that the year I started high school, budget cuts were happening everywhere and one of its first victims was the school newspaper. So I never had that. I never got to have a moment where I wrote for a school paper, had a byline and realized my life calling.
But I did have Newsroom 101. During my sophomore year of high school someone gave me an application for Newsroom 101 and I thought it would be an interesting opportunity, so I filled out the application and sent it in to The Oklahoman the day it was due.
Being in Newsroom 101 opened my eyes to a world I never knew I was missing out on. For three years, I gave up sleeping in on Saturday mornings to drive out to The Oklahoman and be a part of Newsroom 101 and I loved every minute of it. I would not trade those Saturday mornings for anything. The Oklahoman made me fall in love with journalism.
I could talk up The Oklahoman until my face turns blue. I could go on and on about how invaluable Newsroom 101 has been to me and so many others. Aside from giving me great references and great mentors (Carrie, I owe so much to you and am so grateful that you gave up your Saturdays for us. It meant a lot to me.)
The Oklahoman’s impact on my life doesn’t end there. So let’s fast forward two years.
This was my first internship. For whatever reason, Joe took a chance on me. I hope he isn’t regretting it, because it’s a little late at this point.
For the past two months, I have had a fantastic time being an intern here. I got to talk to people and do things I would have never imagined. The amount of investment The Oklahoman puts into their interns really blows me away. This has been an unforgettable summer, and I owe about a thousand “thank you’s” to just about everyone here. The Oklahoman has felt like a home. It has been so welcoming, supportive and fun.
I fell in love with journalism all over again this summer, and I have The Oklahoman to thank for that.
— Conner Rohwer
P.S. I am really going to miss most of the interns. You guys were the icing on the cake.
At some point in our career as journalists, we will all run into stories that fall through at the last minute. Sometimes it’s our fault. Sometimes it’s the fault of our sources.
Ever have an amazing interview, only to be followed by, “Well, I don’t want my name in the newspaper or anything.” And you respond with something like, “Well, I told you I was a reporter, and I grant you off-the-record privalages, you can’t just ask for it.” (Hopefully you worded it a little nicer than that).
But what do you do when you aren’t reporting hard news and this happens? What if the person you are interviewing is nice as can be? And what if he has one of the nation’s largest Spider-Man memorabilia collections in the nation? And how do you heal a heart (mine) that was broken by a grown man that collects toys?
If you don’t stop by the “Social Media Hub” on the 9th floor very often, those questions probably sound strange. Let me clarify.
In late June, I was finishing up a story about a man we’ll call, “Spider-Man Guy.” He owns one of the top-five largest Spider-Man memorabilia collections in the nation. He says its about 4,000 pieces strong and worth “a nice sports car.” It was the perfect local connection to the newest Spider-Man movie premiering in theaters. The story was done. The photos were taken.
Here was the (revised for this blog post) lede:
Remember your eighth birthday party when you tore the wrapping paper off that special toy? Remember that action figure or doll you took everywhere, playing with it until the arms fell off or you lost it in a sea of childhood memories?
It’s bliss. It’s youth. And it’s a feeling (NAME), 39, gets when he walks through the doors of a 400-square-foot room tucked in the back corner of the (LOCATION) home he shares with his wife and (X)-year-old daughter.
Sounds innocent enough, right? Why remove all the identifying parts? A light-hearted story about feeling like a kid again, what could go wrong? A lot, actually.
I got a call a couple days before the story was slated to run. It went something like this.
Me: Hey Spider-Man Guy.
SPG: Hey Kyle, I need to ask you a favor. I really appreciated you coming to see my collection, but my wife doesn’t want our names and location printed in the newspaper. Could you call me by middle name, and just use a common last name, like Smith?
Me: Uh, why Spider-Man Guy? This is a nice story about your collection, why would you want to be anonymous? I’m not going to print your exact address.
SPG: Well, my wife is worried that people will try to rob us if we give our names. It’s just so easy to find people these days …
I won’t go any further. But at the end of our conversation, it was clear his story was not going to run. If I didn’t use a real name in this story, where would I draw the line? Spider-Man Guy (mostly his wife) was afraid his collection would be taken after publicity in the newspaper. My story was replaced by AP content and large photos. And the world kept spinning.
But I’ll admit, with a sense of humor and lots of terrible puns, that it hurt not getting to publish the story. I was proud of my web-slinging narrative, and my Spidy-Senses tingled with pride when I saved the final draft. I understand that with great Spider-Man collections, comes great responsibility to make sure no one steals it. But would my story incite the likes of the Green Goblin, Dr. Octopus and Mysterio to steal some Spidy-Swag? Probably not.
Ask anyone in the “Hub” and they’ll tell you it wasn’t an easy process to get over the venom sting that comes from having the web taken from beneath your feet. But after this blog post, the 12-step process of overcoming Spider-Man Guy rejection is complete. I forgive you, Spider-Man Guy.
And hey, Spider-Man doesn’t reveal his identity in real life, so why would I reveal the closest thing Oklahoma has to the superhero? When I think about it, maybe there’s something Spider-Man Guy’s not telling me. Maybe, he’s got something “super” to hide? … Nah, he’s just paranoid.
While working on several stories this summer, I have had to pause and ask myself:
- What are my intentions in writing this story?
- Am I emotionally invested in this story?
- If so, is it hindering my storytelling?
- How can I tell this story the most objectively?
One such instance was while working on a veterans and PTSD project with health reporter Jaclyn Cosgrove and fellow intern Darryl Golden. We took an entire work day to travel to James Crabtree Correctional Center in Helena, where we interviewed incarcerated veterans about their mental health and experiences returning home from war.
I’m not going to lie. I was a little apprehensive about visiting the prison. I knew it would be a great experience and would expand my comfort zone as a reporter, but being in a room with 50 inmates who had committed violent crimes put me a little on edge. After sitting through the center’s veterans club meeting, I easily saw that the veterans were ordinary people, but had made poor life choices. They had experienced the horrors of war, they felt sorry for the crimes they committed and they missed their families. By the end of our interviews, I had forgotten that we were talking to inmates at a prison.
My part of the project was to write a story about a flag afghan project the veterans club started in 2007. The veterans crochet flag afghans for other veterans and families of fallen service members. I wanted my story to embody the caring nature of the veterans, which I had experienced during my visit. I had heard about their troubles and wanted to present their project in the best light possible. After I finished writing the story, I realized I never mentioned why the men were in prison. Without even thinking, I left out their charges. It was as if I was empathizing with the veterans. I saw that they were truly sorry for the crimes they committed and didn’t want the horrible nature of the crimes, many of them murder, to taint the story.I spoke with Jaclyn about including the charges and she said that they had to be in the story. Deep down, I knew they needed to be included. Like it or not, these veterans committed crimes and that’s why they’re in prison. I included the charges and I think the final product has a sense of compassion, but one that is fair and unbiased. The story explains that these veterans have committed horrible crimes and now they’re serving time and comforting others in need.
This summer, I’ve learned that sometimes as a reporter, I’m going to feel for sources, situations and issues. It’s my duty to find the middle ground. Compassion can exist in journalism.
Nicholas Kristof is a prime example of a journalist who shows compassion through his work. Read or listen to Krista Tippett’s interview with Kristof as he talks about compassion and journalism on Tippett’s show On Being.