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.
I recently worked on a story about a little girl with cerebral palsy who uses a power wheelchair and really wants to learn how to walk on her own.
The story is about a study that looks at how increased mobility could also influence a child’s cognitive and emotional development. But beyond that, it’s about a little girl and her family – a young mother with a trendy haircut, and a little girl who cares more about her new dog, Charlie, than the fact that she can maneuver her pink-framed wheelchair.
TV cameras surrounded the three-year-old, her family, and the local researcher during a press conference Tuesday. These are the questions I snuck in during the meeting:
1. How is this study on infant wheelchair mobility different than other ones before it?
The answer: The researcher said it has more random selection, and the children can use their wheelchairs at home, away from the medical facility.
2. How does using a wheelchair at an early age affect her physical therapy and personal mobility?
The answer: Mom and professor both agree it makes her want to be more mobile when she’s not in the chair. She tries to crawl and walk on her own, even though she gets tired easily.
I shot my first video with this story, which I’m really excited about (at least part of the shots are mine). Like the TV reporters standing around me, we were looking for chances to show you who this little girl really is. I hope the research continues and they are able to make some headway. It seems like a good start to a good program.
I know it was sad to see the Thunder lose tonight. But for me, the evening was important for another reason.
I met a former Oklahoman reporter who now works with a government organization that encourages people to quit smoking.
I learned from our conversation that goals in life will change, and you should define yourself by what you love and maybe not what you do from day to day.
She is a great writer. She knew she wanted to be a writer in 5th grade. After college, she joined the Associated Press, and she was a state desk reporter at the Oklahoman until just two years ago. That was right after her son was born, and she decided to take another job so she could spend more time with her family.
We talked about professors and the journalism program at Ball State, where we both graduated. We talked about why the Oklahoman has such a great internship program – because they take time to teach and encourage people who are spending the summer there.
And we talked about how Southern Indiana girls find their way to Oklahoma. She never thought she would stay here, but then she fell in love with the city and with the man who would become her husband. And I smiled, sitting across from her at the table, eating cotton candy and thinking about how things work out.
She said she misses the newsroom and the adrenaline rush of writing on deadline. But she’ll always be a writer. And I might be that way, too. I’ll be passionate about news but also about my future family. For now, I’m just thankful to be here.
I know there’s always something to be gained with every story. You learn a little something about yourself or about humanity, or just about how to be a better reporter.
On Friday, I experienced a lot of these things. My assignment was to write about an annual event called Endeavor Games. It’s an opportunity for people with physical disabilities to enjoy athletic activities, with a little bit of competition mixed in.
Most of the people there were teenagers and veterans with amputations. They each had a great story to share, I’m sure. But that day, I happened to speak with two men who wanted to spread the word that it’s OK to live with disabilities. And I talked to a 13-year-old whose legs were paralyzed when he was born. On that particular day, his basketball shorts hid what was missing underneath.
I should also say that during the event, I mistook a little girl as a paraplegic (a person who is paralyzed from the waist down). She was rolling around in a wheelchair made for the basketball court, and she seemed to look longingly at the basket as she took shallow shots toward the basket. When I went to talk with the girl, her mom told me, “You know, she’s not disabled?” Nope – I didn’t know that. I had come across other people that day who seemed to have such mild symptoms of disability that you almost couldn’t tell.
So instead, I talked to the woman’s friend, a man who uses a wheelchair and advocates for people to get up and keep going. He was great to talk with, and he said he was thankful for the games. That’s where he met a recruiter who convinced him to enroll in a local college and to take up adaptive sports.
I left the event with a notebook full of stories about overcoming obstacles. Then I got to the office, and I didn’t know where to start. I didn’t want to misrepresent these people by writing a cheesy story. Heck, I already thought an able-bodied kid was disabled.
Thinking back, she was just doing it because her mom was such a supporter for people with disabilities, and the little girl had grown up with people around her in that condition. It just wasn’t a big deal to her.
That was the message that needed to be conveyed in the story: People overcome these obstacles by helping each other cope.
Eventually, I came to that conclusion. It just took longer than I expected to put it into words. My lesson, just like theirs, is to get back up and keep going.