Engaging curiosity and readers, learning tenfold | Our View

By Janelle Retka | Jul 02, 2015

Three months ago, the opportunity arose and I found myself walking through two glass doors and into my first editorial position as an intern at a weekly publication. Having only worked as a freelancer in the past and being in the final stretch of my bachelor’s degree in journalism, I was excited to have some consistency and glean knowledge from my publisher and editor, who could each share their own perspective of what it means to write for a hyper-local newspaper.

After 12 weeks and over 250 hours of working at the Edmonds Beacon—reading archives, familiarizing myself with the city, attending City Council meetings and recording police records, interviewing citizens, gathering data and stitching stories together—my Washington Newspaper Publisher Association (WNPA) Foundation internship at the Beacon has come to an end.

A mentor of mine in the journalism industry, Manuel Valdes of the Associated Press in Seattle, recently told me to enter every interview process or journalistic setting with a list of topics you would ideally write about, and then be prepared to set aside those ideals to report on whatever your editor needs.

Sitting down for the first time with Paul Archipley, the owner/publisher of Beacon Publishing, and Laura Daniali, the editor of the Edmonds Beacon, I hoped that I would be able to write about food programs for under-privileged students in the Edmonds School District, attend City Council meetings, practice my appreciation for creative nonfiction by coloring profile pieces with description, and find ways to incorporate diversity into articles that suited the framework.

I wanted to gain a broad range of skills to apply to future opportunities and challenges. I checked off every item on my list, plus more.

Throughout the course of my internship, I wrote 13 articles covering a variety of topics, from a protest over the new sports fields at the former Woodway High School to a statistical breakdown of the Edmonds population and how those relate to city plans.

I spent my Tuesday mornings at City Hall, transcribing the police records to share the week’s Police Beat with readers. I helped revise press releases, copy edit the final draft of each week’s print run, learned to upload articles to the Edmonds Beacon website and social media handles, and got to shadow during the newspaper layout process.

I enjoyed slices of birthday cake and moments of laughter in the Beacon office setting, and felt the humility of making printed mistakes and failing to break down jargon.

Having a publisher and editor who value your interests, forgive your learning curve and respect your schedule are not circumstances to be taken for granted. Neither is a community that is enthusiastic about engaging in dialogue and suggesting topics of importance.

The readership of the Edmonds Beacon blessed me with the care they took to read and absorb details, ask questions and suggest follow-up articles. I learned a lot about the community of Edmonds through the various people and voices I came across along the way and the willingness of citizens to share their perspective and offer new insight.

While not every perspective can be addressed within the word limit of a printed publication, citizens who weigh in on discussions provide opportunity for more thorough exploration in future issues.

I enjoyed serving the community of Edmonds and helping readers digest current issues and prospects. The challenge of providing a fair description of Edmonds to Beacon readers was a learning experience that I have relished, grown from, and will carry with me to future journalistic endeavors.

Future interns at Beacon Publishing should prepare their palate with curiosity and humility. In journalism, as in any industry, practice makes perfect, and taking on the unknown is the only way to overcome new challenges. Edmonds is a wonderful setting in which to do so.

As I step out of the doors of Beacon Publishing this week, I will be packing up to start another adventure and learning process as an intern at The Cambodia Daily in Phnom Penh, Cambodia. I trust that I will learn and grow a lot in this coming experience, and can only hope that it comes with the support and investment that I received from the Edmonds Beacon and its readership.

A heartfelt thank you to all who contributed to these 12 weeks filled with numerous learning opportunities.

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