Keep up the good work," they'll say. Or, "your folks must be proud." They say this when I show up to interview them or to photograph them. Before even seeing my work, people are proud. Once they actually meet me and see that I am only 18 years old (some think younger), people's minds begin to wonder, "How did this little girl end up doing such a big job?" Never do they seem to doubt my capabilities and talents. They assume that I must be pretty good if I'm so young and already being given assignments by a real newspaper; but really, I'm just an intern hoping to one day be more.
To the staff members and editors at the JFP, being an intern as a high school or (almost) college student probably doesn't seem like a big deal. It's just another group of young people coming through and doing some work. To everyone else, however, it's huge. There are people out there with no type of job, wasting away their days. Here I am, only 18 and already starting to make a name for myself doing what I love. I may not be getting paid, but I feel like I am. It's rewarding enough just to be allowed to sit in the office and write alongside award-winning journalists. Both strangers and family members tell me to keep up the hard work. By being put suddenly in this professional environment, I really have no other choice but to work hard.
I was somewhat familiar with the JFP atmosphere already due to my work with the Youth Media Project here, so it was no surprise that my intern duties didn't top off at making coffee. I still didn't think that Lacey would expect me to pump out a story in one day, my very first day. Before, I was allotted weeks to complete my hole-filled stories for my high school newspaper.
I thought that working on that high school paper for years gave me the background needed to jump into a bigger paper. I was wrong; everything was different. Donna dispelled everything that my old teachers taught me to do when writing journalistically. All of a sudden, it was about telling a story and telling it well. Gone were the days of quickly writing something to fill the eight pages of The Revelation. No more cliche leads and stories built on the passive voice. In high school, I diligently worked myself up to editor, but at the JFP I was at the bottom all over again.
Being expected to produce quality work ready to be published within days can be stressful. The JFP provided me with all the tools I needed to grow in every area that I was interested in. Donna's workshops opened my eyes to aspects of writing that I never before fully looked at. She also helped show me that I'm not crazy. All of those quirky little things I do, such as my overly organizing some things, actually can be useful to becoming a better writer. As soon as I mentioned that I'm interested in photography, I was trusted to take dozens of photos for the paper.
The appeal of the internship and what makes it so enjoyable stretches far beyond the work experience that I've gained. I've met other young people who are actually interested in the same thing I am: writing to make a difference. Some are just young writers looking for an outlet or some practice. Almost all the interns are in some way connected to writing, possibly with English degrees or hopes of one day being a major magazine editor. JFP staffers often make jokes about the "over-worked interns" and I've always just laughed along with them, never really realizing how accurate they are. Looking through the pages of this weekly newspaper, it's easy to spot pieces written or rewritten and pictures we took. The truth is —we really are the backbone of the paper.
I cannot imagine how issues such as Jackpedia and Best of Jackson could be done without some intern elbow grease. I'm sure Donna would be stressed beyond belief if there were no interns to help with these big issues. Especially after working on Jackpedia, it's more than evident how helpful the interns are to the creation of the paper. People may not realize how much time it takes to copy, paste, edit, call, verify and describe the Jackpedia entries. Multiply that by all the cool businesses in Jackson, and that's what this team of interns has been busy with for the past few weeks.
In the Jackson Free Press office at the end of July, interns were scrambling, going back and forth from older JFPs to the computer and to the phone. We were thrown into the project of organizing a year's worth of changes in the city's businesses and organizations, and we immediately got to work. Every day at least two of us pored through Jackpedia.com for correct information. The Jackpedia process may be tedious and at times the very opposite of fun, but I'm sure that all of us found some enjoyment. For those of us who were phone shy, picking up the receiver and dialing those numbers have become second nature. As a group, we have helped each other be stronger and more confident. During this seemingly brainless process, everyone's strengths started to show.
LeeAnna's fine eye for detail helped create unique descriptions for each business. Kate was diligent in making sure each entry has the correct address and contact information. The stylish Bowie twins took on more than enough work, completing both listings and shorter blurb pieces. Katie miraculously did the same, while still working on pieces for other issues.
Throughout this process, we were all able to learn and grow together. I feel like this is one of our greatest accomplishments of the summer: to be able to say that we went from being complete strangers to trusting each other and working as a team to produce an issue of the Jackson Free Press.
This issue is our own. We put in the hard work. Our names might not be next to every single thing that we helped with, but it doesn't matter. We don't really need the recognition after knowing how big of a help we have been. Hopefully, this issue will stick around in houses and dorm rooms to serve as a guide to our city and as a testament to the value of teamwork.
Briana Robinson is a 2010 graduate of St. Andrew's Episcopal School. She enters Millsaps College this month. If you'd like to intern, write [e-mail missing].
- Best wishes. Keep up the good work.
- Our summer intern class was filled with superstars. That's all.