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As this internship comes to a close, I feel a lot of satisfaction and relief.
This City Paper Internship easily provided the best experience I’ve ever had throughout my journalism education. I got to write a lot of unique and interesting stories, I got to meet a lot of people, I got to see a lot of the city, and most importantly I gained skills as a reporter.
This week was light. I completed my regular five short list entries, and then went to an event for the Critic. I got to see some Improv comedy in Oakland as a part of the Pittsburgh Comedy Festival. It was neat to meet one of the organizers I interviewed – they were very appreciative of the coverage.
That’s my biggest takeaway from the City Paper Internship: When you write for a major publication, people in the community really do care.
This week I got to finish up an article about textbooks for the college issue of the paper. For this article, I did two interviews: one with a policy and data wonk an activist, and the other Point Park’s USG president Robert Bertha.
One thing I like about the City Paper is that they allow first person writing in articles – throughout my internship I decided take advantage of this, including for the lead of this story:
“A look at my Amazon order history shows that when I was an incoming freshman at Point Park University, in 2014, my family and I spent $254.84 on textbooks. I distinctly remember how proud I was, at the time, of how low I was able to get the price.
Not long into my first semester, a variety of factors made me realize I didn’t need to spend even half of that.
The rising cost of textbooks and the staggering amounts of money students and their families spend on them every year remains a pertinent issue, but there are ways of reducing that burden.”
As for my weekly Critic assignment, I got to go to this Italian festival in Bloomfield – the “Critic” was a high school teacher who is a big fan of the City Paper. Always nice to see that kind of excitement.
This week I got to start working on some work outside of the arts and entertainment section. The City Paper is gearing up to start a new annual theme revolving around college. They are having their interns write the bulk of the paper.
I pitched and am working on a story about textbooks. I hope to round up information about different school policies, display different strategies for saving money, and speak to an expert on the subject to contextualize the issue. I am getting 600 words to work with and it’s a reasonable quick turn-around of about a week, which is exciting and also nerve-wracking.
For my “Everyone is a Critic” assignment I attended this hip-hop festival “1Hood Day” in Lawrenceville. It was a cool event, though it was unrepentantly loud. It was difficult to find someone to interview (3 folks turned me down), but I did eventually get someone.
This week I got to do some interviews for an write a preview for the Pittsburgh Comedy Fest.
Initially it was looking like I’d be setting up an interview with Sasheer Zamata, an SNL cast member whose name perhaps isn’t recognizable but who I think a lot of people would recognize upon seeing her. Unfortunatelt, she had to cancel her appearance at the festival, but I did get to interview a few members of North Coast, a cool “hip-hop improv” group based out of New York City.
Not only did I have to use my break at my other job (Giant Eagle Bakery) to fit the interview in, but the interview was challenging. I spoke with 3 cast members at the same time on the phone, and wasn’t in a situation where I could record. I had never interviewed multiple people on the phone at the same time before, but I think I managed. I made sure I always addressed questions to certain individuals to make sure I knew who was talking and to make sure I could maintain control of the interview. I also interviewed the two PR people the next day simultaneously on the phone the next day, but that was simpler.
I put together a draft and I think it turned out nice.
Otherwise, I did my standard work. I used the 3 Rivers Regatta for the “Everyone is a Critic” event, which was an easy enough assignment.
A pretty standard week, although I did get to go over a longform story with my boss 1 on 1. I really appreciate going over a long piece of writing with him. I do enjoy tackling the little nuances of structure, grammar, word usage, verbosity, etc. The article is something I’ve been working on since May (I believe) and it’s been a little intimidating.
This story, about a 2 year art project about immigrant communities, has a lot of moving parts. I did 5 in-depth interviews and will be doing more, it seems. Part of me felt like never get it done, but here I am.
I also got to see a performance of Avenue Q, an all-black, raunchy parody of Seseme Street, for the weekly Critic assignment. It was excellent and very funny.
It’s nice when a single experience can be used for multiple forms of coverage – and in this case, for multiple outlets.
The highlight of this week was the opportunity to interview Myq Kaplan, a comedian with impressive national traction. He has performed his standup on big platforms, such as Conan. I was initially going to just do a small blurb about an upcoming performance of his, but I asked my boss if I could do more when the event organizers offered to set up a phone interview.
I have been covering comedy a good but during my internship, partly because it interests me and is therefore something I’m more comfortable reporting on, but also because I know my boss told me he wishes the paper covered comedy more. One thing I’ve learned is that some comedians turn themselves off and just talk to you, and others stay in their stage persona – Kaplan was one of the latter variety.
I think the writing turned out to be quite good – I only had 325 words to work with but I think I did work within that restriction.
To give you a sense of how exciting I found that assignment, I called it the highlight of the week despite the fact that I also attended an LGBTQ Burlesque show. What an internship, eh?
The most exciting aspect of this week started with a young reporter who came into the City Paper offices on Tuesday. My boss had a young lady shadowing him for the day, who from what I recall is an incoming freshman journalism student at a Boston university. It was neat to meet and briefly speak with her.
I overheard my boss tell her the weekly editorial meeting was soon and that she was welcome to join, so I asked if I could join. Sure enough, I made my way into the meeting.
It was pretty fascinating to watch, and I was actually surprised by how it went. I expected there to be much more spitballing, arguing, and experimenting, but it actually went incredibly smoothly and breezily. I talked to my boss afterward, and he explained to me that the reason it wasn’t very contentious or complicated is that the City Paper is largely section-run. That spitballing, arguing and experimenting exists, but mostly within each section. The meetings are mostly there to make sure the sections don’t overlap, and that the usage of the limited space is done correctly.
I also attended a poetry reading at a venue in Oakland called Hemingway’s Cafe. It was a poetry reading. I expected the reading to be attended by trendy 20-somethings but the audience actually looked more like that of a church, which I found interesting. This was an idea I pitched because a friend of mine wanted me to go.
Not a very intensive week but a good one.
It’s rare that the Everyone is a Critic assignment I do each week is based on something I pitched, but that was the case this week. This week, I went to Popapalooza!, which was a Pop! Figure toy show. I consider myself a big fan of the little guys, and did indeed take advantage of some of the excellent prices on amazing figures.
It was fun to cover the event. I had a good conversation with an impassioned collector who went to the show with some friends of his.
The same day, in addition to coming into the office as usual I tagged along with an artist as research for a longer story I’m working on. I am cover an artist residencies project that a group in Pittsburgh is embarking on. For one year, four artists are getting to know four respective immigrant/refugee groups/communities and then in the year after are creating some art work. I shadowed an artist who was shadowing an organization.
I enjoyed it. I got to watch how the artist goes about her day and got to meet and speak with some interesting people.