Summer interns inspire hope for future of journalism
I loved the photo selected for our weekly "Perspective" in one of the July 10 Neighbor sections of our print editions.
It was a terrific shot of a participant in Chicago's Pride Parade, but what I really liked was the description by the photographer. It read: "I tried to convey the joy I saw in the street performers by focusing on one particularly colorful dancer. As I began taking pictures, he turned to smile at me. In that moment, I remembered I have the coolest job in the world."
The photographer was Morgan Timms, native of Brisbane, Australia, majoring in photojournalism and psychology at Southern Illinois University.
And Daily Herald summer intern.
Morgan is among eight enthusiastic college students who worked in the editorial department this summer. Two were in our sports department, one on our copy desk and the rest reported for our city staffs. These are not make-work internships: We throw these aspiring journalists into the fire quickly. And they rise to the challenge.
They've worked on a raft of community event stories, the bread and butter of a local newspaper, but the reporter interns also have cracked the front page of the news section with stories ranging from a piece on relatives of survivors of the Eastland disaster to breaking the news of a local peace rally aimed at showing unity among younger people in promoting racial harmony.
Our sports guys, Manny DeJesus (Notre Dame) and Russell Dorsey (Oral Roberts), appeared on ABC 7 one recent Sunday morning to discuss their stories on local athletes headed to the Rio Olympics. That TV appearance led to a half-hour stint on Eddie Volkman's radio show. Despite that brush with fame, Russell says his favorite internship moment occurred when one of his stories was featured on Bleacher Report, a popular sports site and app.
His answer was from a quick poll I took of our interns, asking them to recount their favorite stories or internship experiences.
I was really impressed with the maturity of their answers, the depth of understanding of the newspaper business in general and the Daily Herald in particular.
A few examples:
• "My editor encouraged me to ask myself this question before I began any story: 'What does this story mean to a Cook County resident?' I wrote it on a sticky note and revisited it each time before I began writing. I hope to remember this at any other newspaper, but in the sense of 'What does this story mean to our audience?'" -- Vanessa Daves, University of Nebraska-Lincoln, and writer of the Eastland story.
• "During a summer with a lot of turmoil in the national news, it was great to see how well readers responded to uplifting stories in local news, such as a back-to-school fair that provided free school supplies to families in need, or standout citizens, like a teen lifeguard who was able to save a boy's life after her first day on the job." -- Cassie Buchman, Eastern Illinois University.
• "My favorite thing about this internship was probably shadowing movie critic Dann Gire," said Alicia Lee, from University of Illinois, who described sitting in on a Gire interview as "the most intense, emotional, moving interview of my life. To see firsthand how Dann interacts with his subjects, how he forms his questions, how he sets the mood, was amazing and I will definitely use those skills in my career. I can't wait to read Dann's story when it comes out."
In keeping with a proud journalism tradition, our interns never have seemed to fear hard work. I encountered that yet again with Liz Ramos, attending the University of Missouri-Columbia, and working from our Fox Valley bureau in Elgin. On Thursday, she stopped by my desk with an unusual request: Could she work the weekend? Liz's internship ends Tuesday, and she still has six stories to finish; she wanted to write up one of the major ones over the weekend. I cracked some joke about her being an intern, not an indentured servant. On Friday, she made some strong headway on the stories, and confidently predicted she could get everything off her plate by Tuesday -- without working the weekend.
And if you ever wonder about the future of journalism, consider these parting thoughts from Sarah Foster, University of Illinois, who spent her internship on our Neighbor section copy desk: "Journalism is about doing what's right -- it's about bringing people out of the shadows and into the light. I want to spend the rest of my life telling the stories of the people and the places who make up my community, just like the Neighbor desk does everyday.
"Thank you, Daily Herald. Thank you for everything. I'm very grateful."
Follow Jim Davis on Facebook at jimdavis06, on Twitter at dhjimdavis or firstname.lastname@example.org.