October 6, 2014 § Leave a comment
As an editorial or writing intern, the most important skill you can learn is how to be a good fact-checker. Fact-checking is simply the checking of facts. Whoa! Blew your mind, didn’t I? But seriously, your duty is to scan a piece up for publication and check every fact in it for accuracy. You are the only defense against the publication of a lie. The reputation of the newspaper industry rests in your hands! This is only sort of an exaggeration because fact-checking is important to any publication, so take it seriously and you’ll be the real MVP of the newsroom.
For example, a few weeks ago, the UK’s Daily Mail published a story about the growing number of illiterate adults. In a hilarious-for-a-normal-person but devastating-for-a-journalist twist, they misspelled a word in the headline. This is why an army of fact-checkers in crucial to making a paper the best it can be. You must make sure your quotes are accurate, and that the math and statistics add up.
Also, proper fact-checking can seriously help prevent a newspaper from libel, which can easily cause an entire publication to crumble. Imagine what would happen if you claimed that somebody murdered somebody when they hadn’t?
You’re gonna be checking everything from all proper nouns to personal facts that the reporter observed. Fact-checking can be super awkward, and have you asking a source is they’ve ran a drug ring, or killed a guy, or has herpes. But it’s for accuracy! For precision!
The merits of fact-checking are also important when you are the writer. Make the fact-checker’s life easier by providing contact information for your sources and any links to articles you may reference. Nothing makes an intern grumpier than having them look through decades worth of archives to find an article you cited once. Also, a fact-checker have heightened senses when looking for those dastardly typos and grammatical mistakes.
If you need any more examples on why fact-checking is important, you can check out Mayor Stephanie Rawling-Blake’s twitter, where she misspelled Cal Ripken’s name. After the fact, she tweeted “I guess I’m the only one who has ever tweeted a typo?!!” Not if us fact-checkers have any say in it, Mayor.
September 28, 2014 § Leave a comment
“Is it worth it? Internships are a lot of time and work and I’m debating if I should even get one?” you ask me.
I put my hand on your shoulder like a kindly mother-figure. “I have no idea, dude” I say.
The discussion about whether internships are worth it or not is vast and ongoing, in fact, USA Today published a piece this week asking is the “era of unpaid internships is over?” citing lack of benefits. And it is much more complex on a economic/cost-benefit way/la-di-da jargon-y way that is too much for one blog post (plus I barely passed Econ101) so we’re gonna have a frank discussion college student-to-college student.
I’ve reduced it to a pretty simple formula: if the internship is getting more out of you then you are of it, then it’s not worth it. You should leave.
You have rights and you have the power to say “no, this is messed up and I’m doing a disservice to myself by staying here and not truly exploring my potential” and skedaddle as fast as your little feet can take you. In fact, unpaid interns at Fox Searchlight who worked on the movie “Black Swan” won a lawsuit that their unpaid work was a violation of minimum wage and overtime laws.
You need to look at your own personal situation and sees if the internship is benefiting you, or simply holding you back from more worthwhile pursuits. I have two internships before my current one where I was treated like a disposable entity and learned nothing except how to waste an entire semester doing grunt work. Factor in the cost of commute and whether the internship is taking time away from a paid job, your ability to study and focus on school, and even your social life. Don’t let it take all your time. If you can balance all these and form a symbiotic relationship with your internship, then go for it.
Another tip is to do your research! E-mail the company or intern coordinator, badger them with questions about what you’ll doing and how much work will be expected. That way, you won’t show up on the first day and be surprised with your new (and unwanted) position as errand-boy/girl/person. Check to see if the company had a track record of hiring past interns. And most importantly, see if the internship fits into what you want to do. Be wary of general and vague job descriptions like “be a part of our team” and “gain experience”. If they can’t tell you what they want you to do, then they don’t know. So move on.
If an internship works, you should be learning something that’ll allow you to wiggle your way through that seemingly blocked employment door we’re all trying to get through.
If an internship doesn’t get you any closer to this door, or even shuts it in your face, you need to leave before you’re exploited further.
What about you? Do you find unpaid internships worth it?
September 22, 2014 § Leave a comment
There’s a special type of satisfaction with being a part of something bigger than you are. In a good internship, you become a part of the organization, becoming a invaluable piece of a much larger collective aiming for a similar goal. I experienced this this week with the release of City Paper’s 2014 Best of Baltimore issue.
I was there from the beginning. I went to the initial pitch meeting in July and watched in early August when my editors frantically edited the blurbs and helped organize them. By the end of August, I, and the other interns I’m sure, were completely burnt on fact-checking the 600+ articles that came in. But this week, smack-dab in the middle of September, the issue came out and I felt I had become a part of the City Paper family. As cheesy as that is, it’s a feeling that cannot be beat. My job was mindless and dull and overwhelmingly boring but the issue wouldn’t have been possible without my work. That’s awesome. With any internship, the trick to see if you’re being exploited is to see if you’re being allowed to contribute on a larger scale. When you’re giving an important task, that’s a sign that you are trusted and that you’ve done great work so far. It was an honor to be trusted with the paper’s, who I’ve learned to love with a fervid enthusiasm, biggest issue of the year.
To celebrate, City Paper threw a Best of Baltimore party on the 18th at the Baltimore Soundstage. It was a loud and over-packed explosion of Baltimore’s local artists, musician, chefs, politicians, and then there was me. Awkwardly sipping on a beer and trying to find my way through a maze of sweaty, dancing people I knew people were wondering why I was there. I mean, seriously. John Waters was there and I was struggling to stay upright with my heels on. But, jokes on all you guys! The issue wouldn’t exist without me! This whole party would be nothing without me! Okay, that might be an exaggeration but still. It was the biggest swell of pride I had felt in the world.
When I found my editor through the ridiculous crowd, I found him talking to a woman I hadn’t meant before. When he introduced me, the woman smiled and said “Oh! I’ve heard such good things about you.”
So, maybe I a doing something right. And even if I’m not, the experience working on this issue has been worth every pain-staking blurb I had to read, and every highlighter that I used that inevitably ran out of ink.
And also, I got to go to a really cool party with an open bar. Win/win.
September 7, 2014 § Leave a comment
Imagine you’re standing in front of a room of about seven million people but they’re completely hidden and can say whatever they want about you without fear of repercussion. That’s what posting on the internet is like.
The internet grants people an anonymity that can be dangerous and leads to the birth of trolls, which according to urbandictionary, is “One who posts a deliberately provocative message to a newsgroup or messageboard with the intention of causing maximum disruption and argument.” Basically, they’re jerks who starts online argument that way too often lead to harassment.
This is something an aspiring writer needs to be aware of and prepared for. For example, last month I wrote a piece about bronies, adult fans of My Little Pony, and it was not handled well by the My Little Pony community. I was sent an assault of personal attacks, death threats, and, was faced with harsh and unfair criticism of my reporting and writing (which honestly stung the most). Online harassment is a serious issue that can discourage young writers from continuing but don’t let that get to you. Push on. Use this a fuel. Show them wrong and better yourself. You giving up is just what they want, don’t let that have that.
These trolls feed off attention and the controversy their comments cause, so ignore them and they’ll starve to death and wither away to pathetic obscurity.
Anita Sarkessian, creator of Feminist Frequency which is a web series that analyzes pop culture through a feminist lens, is the most recent example of online trolling going to new, terrifying extremes.
After a video where Sarkessian criticized misogyny in the video game industry, the threats that she got everyday got a lot more serious.
“The attacks were so menacing and so personal, Sarkeesian was forced to call the police and leave her home. Someone let her know they’d tracked down her home address and the names and address of her parents. The individual threatened to kill them, too” according to an article in the Washington Post.
This is not okay. Rational discussion and open conversation about the topics presented is encouraged and one of the goals of well-done journalism. But when this gets twisted into some sort of witchhunt, then it can overshadow the message your writing is trying to send.
So on the internet, you have to be careful, but be brave. Don’t censor yourself. Criticism is avoidable and some of it will help you grow and improve.
And don’t feed the trolls. They’re not worth your time. Flip your hair and walk away, you fabulous person.