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Journalism is an (active) verb, and other lessons learned as a Church News intern

June 21st, 2012 Posted in Opinion

By Allie Jeppson
Salt Lake City Corrrespondent

SALT LAKE CITY—I began journalistic writing only two years ago as a college freshman. If someone had told me in the summer directly following my high school graduation that I would be working for The Deseret News, I would have laughed at their very funny joke and walked away without a shred of belief in my body. But who’s laughing now as I sit here in my little cubicle on the newsroom floor of the DNews?

In my past two years of schooling I have learned tremendous amounts, mostly through amateur experience as many of my professors and mentors so kindly threw me in a raging ocean and told me to rely on my own limbs to find safety. Thank goodness I didn’t drown (or die of sharks), because here I am again, in another fast-paced learning experience, not only trying to survive the ocean, but trying to succeed in what I have come to know as the “real world.”

I’ve been a member of this world for almost six weeks now and my time as LDS Church News intern is about halfway through. Because of the type of publication that I work for, I have learned different lessons than I previously did during my formal schooling.

Intern Lesson #1: Journalism is a verb

News doesn’t just magically appear. As a journalist, you have to actively seek the news. I didn’t realize this until I began to get bored during my internship because I hadn’t built up a newsfeed and wasn’t on any sort of email list informing me of things going on. Who knew that the title of “journalist” alone doesn’t act as a magnet for breaking news? Not me. During my time at school I was always encouraged in many of my journalism jobs and classes to come up with my own stories, but other than mooching off of stories that had already been published, I was never really sure how to do that. I’ve found that things like RSS feeds, Google Alerts and email lists are extremely helpful in generating news content, but I’ve also found that personal interactions may prove better than the rest.

Each person in this world is connected with a network of other people, and each person we interact with has different experiences and knowledge than ours. By simply asking questions and being aware of those around us, many interesting topics and potential story ideas arise. Not to mention that anyone may have information on an upcoming event or happening. I’ve found that most people are willing and enthusiastic to share their own or someone else’s story if we are only willing to ask. Some of my most interesting stories emerged simply through word of mouth and many of the stories that run in the LDS Church News are brought to our attention by phone calls, emails and letters from community members; stories that would not have been easily found through the internet or other advanced practices.

I also can’t ignore the fact that a lot of news comes from public relations departments of businesses and organizations that reach out to reporters to spread their news. While the Church News is a direct publication of the LDS Church, our relationship with the church and its leaders has proved beneficial in receiving interviews and information that is largely unattainable for any other news publication. The relationships that Church News reporters hold with the Church are vital. I’ve been fortunate enough to meet and talk with two of the Church’s general authorities about their international work for the Church. Were it not for the very stable network of my editor, her well-known position as a journalist to the Church and our specialized publication, these interviews would not have been possible. While this may sound very public relations, it’s hard to ignore that. “It’s not what you know, but who you know.”

Stand by for Intern Lesson #2.

TP

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