Summer 2015 Internship Portfolio Essay
For the Summer 2015 semester I interned at The Lapeer County Press and Lapeer Area View as a freelance reporter, copy editor and general contributing writer. This internship gave me the opportunity to get my name in print and build up my résumé while gaining hands on experience in my chosen field. This internship also provided the last credits for my English degree from Wayne State University, allowing me to finish my degree while putting to use all the knowledge I gained from WSU. While I was working as a contributing writer for the two papers, I got the chance to get several different types of writing published: articles, interviews and more. I also got an inside glance into the world of the View Newspaper Group, the company that prints both the County Press and Lapeer Area View, in addition to almost twenty other publications in Michigan. I truly enjoyed doing interviews and traveling around Michigan to write stories on different local events, charity organizations, music and interesting individuals I would never have otherwise met. It was an amazing experience to be able to contribute original content to existing publications and then see my stories run in multiple newspapers. Seven different clips are included below that showcase my skills in articles that I wrote for different publications. I can say without question that I learned how to be a better writer in so many ways, the proper way to do interviews (always record and ask for the proper spelling of names), proper formatting for different pieces, the best way to find facts and to check facts and most importantly; to remain professional while also having fun and letting my interviewees feel at ease. These clips should demonstrate my abilities as a focused writer that is able to plan, execute and complete assignments in a timely, professional manner for any type of audience.
My first assignment was for The County Press; I had to interview Jonathan Lemaire, the director of a non-profit charity organization known as the Hometown Heroes. My first published article is titled “Hometown Heroes of Michigan prepare for annual golf outing”. This article got me off to a running start and I was immediately struck by how connected and self-sustaining the Lapeer community is. The more people I talked to for this story the more I learned about how many people work to help each other every day. Hometown Heroes raise funds to put forth towards worthy causes in the community, usually through an event like a charity golf outing that I wrote about in this first piece. I spoke to the Metamora County Club in addition to the local Lapeer Police and quickly realized that these types of community charity events were regular occurrences. I was very happy to have a part in these noble causes, Lemaire and the Heroes wanted to raise money to help a local woman named Candy that was just diagnosed with cancer. I believe this is one of the most meaningful pieces I’ve written and I was excited to spread word about such a wonderful organization doing great work. It was a sublime experience to talk to people that were all helping each other and to be a part of a local support system, this first experience made me realize just how important journalism can be.
My second article kept a similar focus, this time on another charity organization, the Lapeer City Police Officers Charitable Fund (LCPOCF). I used my same connections with the Police Department and the Metamora Country Club to get more interviews, information and they also got me in touch with the Murphy Links Program. The Links program help cognitively impaired children by pairing them with general education students for the duration of day camps where the students do team building activities together. The article ran with the headline, “Police officer’s fund ensures Murphy Links Program at Bear Lake continues”. This was a new experience for me because in addition to doing phone interviews with the Chief of Police and the program directors of both the Bear Lake Camp and the Murphy Links Program, I also got to do on sight interviews the day the camp took place. It was nice getting to meet the teachers, camp employees, volunteers and students involved with such a great program. The local police in Lapeer actually do a lot of charity work so I was happy to do my part in helping all these organizations by getting the word out in the paper. I learned quickly that the most important aspect of my job was to properly spread information in a positive way.
The first story that took me on the road was my assignment to cover the Back to the Bricks promotional tour on the West Side of Michigan. Back to the Bricks started as a car show in downtown Flint, MI and grew into a summer long extravaganza, with multiple events linking multiple counties and people from all over the country, and not just car enthusiasts. I ended up covering multiple Back to the Bricks events over the course of the summer, this first story focused on only the promotional tour that took participants from Flint to Battle Creek, then up through more cities to Manistee and even more places after I had to head back to Lapeer to turn in my article, which ran in the Grand Blanc View (another publication of the View Newspaper Group) as “Back to the Bricks — Helping Michigan get back on track”. I was happy to travel and talk with car lovers that came to Michigan from all over the country, it was the first time I got to write on the road and get paid to do so, the View Newspaper Group covered my expenses; hotel rooms, gas and food. Living as a reporter on the road taught me a lot about life as a writer and doing whatever it takes to get the best interviews and put out the best story possible.
My next big article was somewhat of a trip down memory lane for me; I was assigned an interview with a minister named Bob Fox that actually married my parents in the same church that he was the head of until 1999. I only attended that church a few years after Mr. Fox left (partly because I left religion behind) because he was a particular type of man, not a fire and brimstone type person, Fox was never one to make anyone feel bad or guilty about anything. Bob Fox was a teacher when I knew him and he truly had even more amazing stories and worldly wisdom to share now in 2015. Speaking with Fox as an adult was a truly insightful experience and I was again happy to help spread the word of an incredible humanitarian returning to the community. The headline that was used for this article was “ ‘I love the people here, they are friends’ — Local minister ready to get back to work 16 years after retirement”. Fox had some incredible stories and after moving to North Carolina in 1999 then losing his wife (who forced him into retiring) the man wished for nothing better than to return to Michigan in order to watch his grandchildren grow and get involved with the church again. I felt lucky to write such an inspiring reunion piece. I also got to take the photo of Bob Fox that was used in the paper; it was a great experience to work as a multifaceted reporter doing interviews and photos.
In my life I am very passionate about writing and music, so I was very happy that I got to do an interview with a local hard rock band called A New Endeavor. The article ended up getting published in the Lapeer Area View with the headline, “Local punk rock band ready for what’s next” and it was a great experience meeting the band, watching them practice and asking them questions about their growth as musicians and their goals for the future. This is another piece that I was required to get my own photos for, so I was able to gain experience in multiple fields with one article, which was nice. The band was very excited to get written about in a paper that was going to be printed and distributed, and I thought it was interesting that even younger people respect newspapers specifically because it’s not only online. Every story I did continually taught me the importance of newspapers, even in the year 2015 when people say it’s a dying field, I couldn’t disagree more. Newspapers are central life lines in smaller communities and when they are done right they can inspire people to take action in important ways they otherwise wouldn’t know of.
Over the course of the summer I spent a lot of time focusing on the Back to the Bricks events, conducting over a dozen interviews with different event organizers, sponsors and members from the board of directors. I worked closely with Back to the Bricks, making sure different articles made it to print at the right times, such as; “Tune Up Party week revs up excitement for Back to the Bricks” which was one of the many pieces I wrote to spread awareness of the event. The main piece that I am most proud of is the most recent: “Back to the Bricks events in full swing” was my first front page, cover story that appeared in over 70,000 newspapers throughout both Lapeer and Genesee counties, appearing in the Lapeer Area View, the Grand Blanc View, the Schwartz Creek View, the Flint Township View and all sister publications of the L.A. View, all printed by the View Newspaper Group. This was my big break, so to speak. I am very pleased to see that all my hard work and behind the scenes interviews paid off in an article that was chosen for a cover story due to it’s relevance and my own efforts.
My editors told me that every article I handed in got better, in terms of formatting, information and quotations used, my superiors were very impressed with the quality of work I was turning in. My grammar and spelling has always been above average and one time when I was in the office of the County Press I actually noticed a typo in a front-page headline that almost went to print. Luckily, I caught the mistake and relayed it to my superiors; this was the first time I was recognized not only for my skills as a reporter and writer but also as an editor. My abilities as a writer, editor and even as a makeshift photographer grew exponentially through my experiences working for the different papers, all printed by the View Newspaper Group. There were very few times I was not satisfied with the final version of my writing that ended up in print, occasionally there would be typos that made it onto the online versions that weren’t there when I turned them in. Once or twice my editors made executive decisions to use different word choices than I had originally put in. This was only minimally frustrating, but part of writing for a paper is being humble, listening to one’s superiors and understanding what needs to be done for the greater good of the paper and done for the better of one’s audience. Overall this experience has helped me grow into a much more confident writer. Throughout this summer I have been published more times than ever before in my life and I am now more comfortable with writing for an audience. I hope to continue working as a freelance writer for the View Newspaper Group and continue to build up my portfolio and showcase my capabilities as a writer in a world that needs people who have a way with words.