Internship Series: The Virginian-Pilot — Week 1

The first week included journalism jokes, Miss USA cutouts and flower illustrations

Day 1

On Day 1 at The Virginian Pilot I was anxious, excited and nervous about meeting new people and doing well on the first day of my internship. Above all, I was thrilled that I would be a part of a daily news organization. Arriving that afternoon, I made sure to have my dad take about a dozen different pictures of me outside of the building so I could dutifully post them on Instagram and Facebook before heading inside.

Yes, this was the photo I put on Instagram and Facebook

One of the highlights of the day was finishing paperwork early, which meant I got to sit in on the 3:15pm budget meeting with all the editors. They talked about which online stories were coming up the next day and which stories would be going on the front page. It was one of those great collaborative meeting where people were coordinating graphics and photos they wanted or already had, discussing whether or not a particular story warranted the front page and talking about when to hold an article for the next day. The icing on the cake? There were a bunch of journalism jokes — my life was truly complete.

I also got to design four pages for print the next day, including an article about some of the controversial comments Miss USA made during the competition. It was my favorite page that I got to design: it had a cutout of the flower bouquet that overlapped the headline, which is one of my favorite design techniques. I’m now eagerly waiting to see my pages in print, which is a feeling that never gets old.

Days 2–3

I started doing more hands-on designing on days 2 and 3. I sat with a designer who had been on staff for a few years, and she helped me create different layouts and navigate their content management system, which definitely was a bit of a learning curve.

Everyone I worked with was extremely helpful. They offered me tips on doing cutouts, when to place additional information boxes, how they decided to layout pages, which articles to emphasize, when to use which headline font and more. The sheer number of design options was overwhelming, but having a guide those first couple days helped me navigate and understand the process.

Days 4–5

These were the days I was let loose to design by myself. It was a bit intimidating at first, since I was doing the entire inside A section, which could range from 6–8 pages, which is a fairly hefty load (I’m used to designing 4–5 pages for a weekly paper at school), but I was excited to get to tackle so much work in just one day.

Those two days were honestly pretty wild. I was working constantly, trying to figure out cutouts, the process for doing a standalone photo and making my own illustrations to accompany an article. It was also a reminder that I was new, as I had my fair share of forgetful moments over the course of those two days where I forgot to attach fast-fact boxes, put a drop cap on a column or check out of articles so copy could read them. While frustrating, all of these came to me as things to improve for next week, to make sure that I don’t become someone who holds up the process and instead become someone who works well with other journalists and within the newsroom. I realized that these were the kinds of small details involved in putting together a paper that I’ll learn over time.

A few of the pages I’ve done so far for The Virginian Pilot.

One of my favorite things about starting at The Pilot this week was the amount of people I could direct my questions to. Why choose to emphasize this article over another? Why use a certain headline font with a particular story? Does this illustration accurately represent the article or should something be added to it? I can ask several other designers, copy editors and the Director of Presentation, which is great. While I love being the Design Chief at Elon News Network and getting to answer all of my designers’ questions, one of the best parts about being an intern is learning from all the incredible journalists and designers who have been in the industry significantly longer than I have, and learn from the wealth of information they have to share.


This is the first installment in our internship series, where our contributors recount their news design internship experiences in weekly updates.