Learning in Internships

During the summer of 2006 senior journalism major Sheleatha Carr interned at the Johnson City Press. She worked within the news department as a police beat and general assignment reporter. Carr also shadowed police beat reporter Kristen Swing. "At first, it amazed me at how well she did her job to be so young (about two years older than I am)," Carr noted. "But I learned from her, and the other young reporters at the Press, that it doesn't matter about your age; all that matters is that you have confidence in what you are doing and the know-how to do it." Carr said that the internship was a busy but enjoyable time. "I took pictures, interviewed people, frequented the local jail and police department – to collect public records, and wrote a wide range of stories." Sometimes the work was tiring and discouraging, too, she said. "There were days that I had to drag myself out of bed and down West Main, but I did. And there were times when I checked my e-mail at the Press, and someone had said that an article I wrote was 'stupid.' It hurt. Writing is my life, and when someone criticizes my work it like they slapped me in the face." Carr said that Swing told her that criticism from readers is part of the job—"it doesn't feel good but we have to let it go." "This internship helped me develop some much-needed thick skin — within the newsroom, too," Carr said, noting that she was sure one of the copy editors wanted to have her thrown out for "the silly mistakes I was making." "He told me things over and over again — nicely." Carr, from Morristown, Tenn., said that she learned not to take comments on her work personally and that she developed a better proofreading eye. "I also appreciated the positive side a lot more," she said. "I was entrusted with the job of covering the news of Johnson City over the weekend twice. That says a lot – the editors felt I could handle such a task. And I did." And occasionally her e-mail had messages from people saying that articles she had written were good and informative. "I believe I am a better journalist because of the internship," she said. " I learned a great deal – using sources better, asking the right questions, using my time wisely – and being able to take criticism." Other reporters, editors, sources and those who read your articles—in Carr's book, they're all valued journalism instructors.