Lessons learned in Des Moines Internship

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Katie Stinson

My summer at The Des Moines Register forced a harsh conclusion on me about the ever changing journalistic role of media in mainstream society: Never settle for comfortable and always be receptive to change.

This realization might strike one as a negative reality about the modern news business, but really it’s a positive. It is a simple reality that allows us to grow and develop our skill sets beyond one talent.

The fundamentals are still the same no matter the assignment—text, multimedia, video and/or photo. The basics are all grounded in solid reporting and writing skills that we acquire in the classroom and through student media outlets. Being able to take what we’ve learned in the classroom and apply that root news judgment into real-world storylines is the absolute foundation, but today’s news world allows us to kick it up a notch.

In today’s business we can no longer assign ourselves the role as a one-trick pony like “writer” or “photographer.” Today the title is “multimedia journalist,” and that means you learn to play every card in your hand or you fold. Today, journalists are expected to do more than ever with fewer resources. It can be time consuming and incredibly infuriating, but is it worth it? Absolutely.

These requirements make the job thrilling and never mundane. When I first entered journalism school I always considered myself just a writer and nothing else. But, after interning and being in the real world it has become blatantly obvious that just isn’t the case any longer.

Now, I’m being pushed, almost daily, to try something new that I didn’t think was possible or that I had the skill set to achieve. Me, a photographer? A videographer? Not happening, I thought at first.

But it did! Not only did my writing skills improve exponentially, but I’m also learning the importance of new media—how valuable and marketable it is to be able to take and create your own stimulating visuals, as well as the significance of being able to write quickly for the web and strive for instantaneous information accessibility.

During my first few weeks at The Register, Gannett, the newspaper’s parent company, laid off about 700 people company wide, about a dozen from our own newsroom. It was terrifying. I couldn’t help but ask myself, what am I doing in this business? But more reflection led me to an epiphany: The trick to succeeding in a career is being able to change and see the need to grow and morph with the expansion of resources, emphasizing the importance of understanding web-based journalism and having multimedia skill sets.

The journalism industry is changing, but it is not dying. The skill sets journalists are being required to obtain and maintain make daily news stories that much more vibrant and colorful.

I’m sure the buggy whip manufactures of the 1800s had similar hesitations and fears about the risky “automobile engine” and the changes associated with it, but companies unwilling to change will ultimately face the same fate they did – closure.

Those willing to move toward the Internet and multimedia elements will prosper. Those willing to learn more skills and bend the rules will find jobs.

The sooner we can abandon the old methods and roles associated with journalism, the sooner we will discover the plethora of open doors and opportunities. Use your schooling as a valuable opportunity to cultivate those multi-platform skill sets.

Make yourself a desirable multi-trick pony.

My experience in Des Moines helped me realize the importance of having an open mind, positive attitude and multiple skill sets. The Register's newsroom appreciated my willingness to juggle multiple skills all while covering one story. It saved them time and resources. In other words, I forced myself to become a marketable, multi-trick pony and I believe future employers will appreciate those traits when looking for a new hire. 

Katie Stinson, left, interviews Special Olympics Gold Medalist Mike Warren and Polk County Sherriff's Office Deputy Jana Rooker about their time spent at the Special Olympics World Games in Athens, Greece. Stinson took notes the old-fashioned way, with pen and paper, but also recorded her interviews and took her own still photos for The Des Moines Register print edition and website.

(Editor’s note: More than 90 SJMC majors interned this summer. We enlisted some of them to share their experiences.)

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