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.
I also realized a former and a current Point Park student were actors in it, so I decided to do an article on it for the first issue of the Globe coming up in the fall.
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.
This week, unfortunately, was an uneventful one.
Because my boss was on vacation this week, I didn’t go into the office at all. Despite this, I still had my regular weekly workload. I still completed short list entries and attended an art/entertainment event for the Evelyone is a Critic assignment.
The event I went to was thus Charlie Chaplin Silent Picture Show, which I found to be pretty cool and interesting. This show took place at City of Asylum’s Alphabet City, a cool book store/restaurant/venue for readings, screenings and performances. At this event two musicians played live music paired with old silent films made by Charlie Chaplin. The movies contained timeless slapstick comedy that was only made more interesting and compelling due to the lack of words. The audience was very engaged, and quite crowded for that matter. The woman I interviewed for the assignment was eloquent and friendly.
My week was actually dominated by my standard job back home – I ended up working 40 hours. So while this was a light week in terms of my internship, squeezing it in was still a challenge.
This week was one of my most joyful at the internship thus far, as I got to do a lot of writing. Thursday morning, I turned in 1600 words worth of writing. It felt good.
On Tuesday, after going into the office I went to the National Aviary in the North Side (for the first time) to do some research for a story. Because my internship is awesome, research entailed a trip on Birdly, a virtual reality experience that simulates the experience of flying as a bird around New York City. It was fun and scary and a technological marvel. VR has become rather prominent, and this was my first time trying it.
While I only had 400 words to work with on this story, I became very proud of the writing. This excerpt is something I particularly like:
Elizabeth Pacanovsky, 26, and Angela Guy, 34, friends from Cleveland decided to travel to Pittsburgh, and the Aviary was one of their stops. Guy had never been to Pittsburgh before. Neither of them had ever been a bird.
The bulk of my time spent writing was on the 800 word profile of a comedian I’m working on. Hours upon hours of observation and interviews went into the piece, and the actual process of writing it was lovely. I have what I think are a strong lead, a compelling through-line that characterizes the man in an accurate and interesting way, and some great quotes.
After turning all of the writing in, I got to sit down with my boss and go over it all, which was really great. Bill O’Driscoll has an impeccable eye for detail and is always able to provide loads of constructive criticism.
This week, I had to cram a lot of work into less days than usual, because I left Friday for a weekend vacation. Thankfully, my boss was very accommodating to my schedule and pushed some work to the following week for me.
Tuesday was the very busy and exciting day. I went into the offices around noon, got to Phipps Conservatory for an interview with someone for the Critic assignment around 3, did an interview on the phone in the Phipps cafe with someone else for an additional story, and then at 8 pm I went with a buddy of mine to a comedy show as part of research for a comedian profile I’m working on.
If there was just one day in my life I felt like an actual reporter, it was that day.
The phone interview was with Marta Mazzoni, the creator and host of a prominent Pittsburgh podcast called “Marta on the Move.” I had a lovely conversation with her for a feature on her and her show, which is coming up on a 3 year anniversary. I had to turn the story around quickly, so the following days saw me writing it and turning it in for publication by Thursday.
The comedy show was a lot of fun. There were probably around a dozen comics and I did a lot of laughing. I am starting to see a lot of familiar faces the more I cover comedy, which is satisfying. Pittsburgh comedy is a beat I hope I can focus on going forward.
It’s hard to believe how quickly time flies during this internship.
This week, I was a fly on the wall at a meeting at the Greater Pittsburgh Arts Council. I am working on a story about their Art Residencies program, in which four artists get to know four respective immigrant groups in Pittsburgh to create art that represents their cultures in a two year time frame. At the meeting I got to learn more about how the project is going to work, and got to learn the stories of two immigrants, one from Somali and the other from Bhutan.
The story is daunting, as there are a lot of moving pieces, and about something I won’t be present as a reporter for the vast majority of. It’s a challenge I am enjoying tackling, though, and one that will be very resonate if done correctly, I think.
On Saturday, for my weekly Critic assignment, I went to Smoke and Mirrors Penn Out Loud. This art crawl in Bloomfield the weekend of pride appeared to me to be a non-corporate alternative to that weekend’s mainstream pride events. There was a warm, independent feel to the even that I thought was comendable and cool.
My weeks are getting busier, but I am not complaining.
The highlight of my internship for this week was having the opportunity to actually be at a scene, taking notes and conducting an interview.
I am working on a long-form profile on a comedian in Pittsburgh. I attended a comedy show that he hosts, which was an interesting an different experience for me. I have never really attended a comedy show before, and it was very funny. The bar atmosphere is also something I don’t often experience, so there was a degree of leaving my comfort zone. Ultimately, though, the kind of reporting I love doing most is exactly this: hanging out in an environment and simply observing.
Conducting interviews as a reporter for a well-circulated newspaper like the City Paper is also a different experience than reporting for a school newspaper or a blog, I’m learning. Subjects are often excited to be interviewed because they are looking forward to the exposure they know the City Paper can give them. Because of this, actually conducting the interviews feels more rewarding, because the social good of the reporting is pronounced.
I also got to pick up this week’s paper, which is the first that included a piece of writing from me longer than just a 100 words or so. Still just a 325-word story, an extended “Short List” preview, but it was great to see in print with my byline.
This week, I really started to realize how much I’m learning during this internship.
The highlight this week was attending an Improv session at the Steel City Improv Theater. I had to do this for my weekly “Everyone is a Critic” assignment and decided to head down with my friend Eddie. Neither of us had been to Shadyside before. When we arrived, we were likely easily impressed, but still, we were amazed by the area. I think what amazed us the most was the fact that this was a sprawling, exciting part of Pittsburgh we have somehow managed not to visit. It made me realize how much I have to learn about Pittsburgh in the grand scheme of things.
Improv was loads of fun; everyone actually participated. Neither of us have done Improv before, and we both had a blast. Here is a quick snap Eddie took of me improvising a bit about a confused Muslim (me) who found himself the subject of a baptism:
I also got to interview Marcus Stevens, a Point Park graduate with an impressive acting career. I did a small preview for his lead role as God in the comedy An Act of God. He was a fun, nice and eloquent guy and a pleasure to speak with and write about.
Another good week, this one eye-opening and rewarding.