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Internship gave insight into importance of solid community journalism

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By JACOB BLAIR/News-Democrat Intern

Ten weeks goes by in the blink of an eye. I’ve told several people, even though we published the back-to-school sections in The News-Democrat and The Trimble Banner a week and a half ago, it feels like just yesterday that I was taking photos at the moving up ceremony at Carroll County Middle School.

What have I learned in 10 weeks? I don’t even know where to begin.

As an intern, I shot photos at  the Carroll and Trimble county fairs. I loved the action of the demolition derby and the motocross races, but I also covered a children’s pageant while I was at the Carroll County Fair (that was Kristin’s idea). I’ve covered local government through beat reporting on the Carroll County Fiscal Court, which I actually enjoyed more than covering student government back at Eastern Kentucky University.

I even got to cover the fundraiser event for the Carrollton campus of Jefferson Community and Technical College, where a new campus is part of the state’s BuildSmart program. There’s just something about sitting at a table across from Mayor Gene McMurry, along with another reporter from a newspaper in Southern Indiana, that makes you realize you’re more than just a college journalist.

I feel more capable in my photography abilities than I did before I had this internship. Technological advances have made it so anybody can pick up a camera in automatic mode and take a picture, but being a photographer is about understanding light and capturing the focus of the picture, and paying attention to what’s going on in the rest of the frame.

I learned to double check the spelling of names as well as phone numbers. If you make a mistake in this business, it doesn’t go unnoticed thanks to correction policies.

I learned that you basically have to pick up the assignments you’re given and run with them. Day one, at 8 a.m., I already had two stories from News Editor Kristin Beck to complete. Even though I was nervous on my first day of work, I got the articles done and started to get comfortable working in a professional newspaper setting.

I had very little confidence in my ability to design The Trimble Banner’s back-to-school section last week, but I finally started putting text on the pages and the things I had learned from a college class one year ago made sense. I have to thank Special Sections Coordinator Phyllis McLaughlin for designing the pages last year, as I didn’t have to start entirely from scratch this year.

Before this internship, I had written one profile story before, and it was only an assignment for class. I’ve written multiple “Have you met?” profiles since I started working here. Profiles aren’t for the sake of just taking up space. They are actually about capturing the spirit of local residents who make a positive impact on their community.

Lastly, I’ve learned that Carrollton, Carroll County and Trimble County are made of great people who want to make a difference in their communities: From local foundations spearheading a campaign to build a new community college, to Champions for a Drug Free Carroll County attempting to curb an epidemic of drug abuse, to celebrating the opening of the River Walk, a path that just reflects as bright an outlook for the community as its new shiny concrete.

The whole time I was here, Publisher Jeff Moore wanted me to see the value of small-town newspapers through reporting on local news but also doing my own photography, design work and copy editing. I even took photos that appeared in some of the weekly advertisements. I saw the light and I appreciate the opportunity to try these various tasks during my 10 weeks here in Carrollton.

I am so grateful to the newspaper staff at both The News-Democrat and The Trimble Banner for putting confidence in me to be their Kentucky Press Association intern.I have more confidence in myself and a brighter outlook for my senior year at EKU, where I will graduate in May with a bachelor’s degree in journalism.

Where will I work after I graduate? It’s too early to tell. But if it’s a community newspaper with as great a staff and community members as I’ve had to work with here, I’d be just fine with that.

 

After leaving The News-Democrat, Intern Jacob Blair will serve as editor of The Eastern Progress, EKU’s independent weekly sttudent newspaper during his senior year.