Peers to the rescue

by Samantha Matsumoto

About five weeks into my internship, I hit a wall.

I’d been working at The Oregonian in Portland as a breaking news reporter since mid-June. I’d rushed to the scenes of crimes and covered heat waves and court hearings, and I was learning something new every day.

It was a childhood dream come true. I grew up reading the paper in the city’s western suburbs, admiring its reporters since I was a high-school student journalist. I dreamed of maybe one day being half as good as them.

In late July, though, my inspiration was drained.

Five weeks into an internship, things start to feel a little more real. It’s long enough that the newness has worn off (a little), but the five weeks ahead still feel daunting. Reaching the halfway point for me, a recent college graduate, also meant I was five weeks away from being very possibly jobless.

Panicked, I started sizing up what I had accomplished in the previous weeks. I’d been learning a lot, sure, but I was still not even close to being half as good as the reporters I had admired growing up. I’d written plenty of stories but hadn’t gotten any traction on the enterprise stories I had hoped to tackle when I started the internship.

Talking to my fellow Chipsters, though, made me realize I wasn’t the only one who’d hit a wall. Over Skype calls, text messages and group chats, we traded stories about hitting the halfway point and how we powered through. Many of my classmates had started their internships before I did, so they could share tips on how they got through the midway slump.

We talked about the struggles we’d encountered, what we’d learned so far and what we hoped to do next. When I was feeling discouraged, I would message one of my classmates. Talking about my internship helped me to better understand what I’d learned so far. It helped me remember what I hoped to accomplish and renewed my sense of purpose to keep pushing myself. More than anything, it helped me understand that I wasn’t alone.

I realized this summer that in a sometimes difficult field, having others to talk to and bounce ideas off of is crucial. It not only kept me sane but also helped me to grow. Sharing my experiences with and getting advice from my peers helped me to learn how to handle difficult situations and be a better reporter. As a young journalist, I have a lot to learn. I’m glad I’m not doing it alone.

Four tips for a successful internship

  • Set goals: Determine what you want to accomplish during your internship. Put together a list of story ideas or topics you’d like to cover and a plan for putting those ideas or topics into action.
  • Communicate with your editors: Once you’ve set your goals, talk with your editors about what you hope to accomplish, while also meeting their requirements. Editors can help you come up with a plan and flesh out your ideas.
  • Build off your previous stories: There are often chances for deeper coverage and newsworthy follow-ups to your previous stories. Try looking there if you’re stuck for ideas.
  • Keep your head up: Look back at what you’ve accomplished. You are doing OK!

—Samantha Matsumoto

 

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