One of the main goals I hoped to achieve as editorial intern at Grid magazine was to get a story published in print. I have the spent the whole semester converting press releases into blog posts and writing listicles for the website, which I was very comfortable with. But I really wanted to challenge myself and write a true journalism piece.
During the middle of the semester, the managing editor, Sara Schwartz, sat down with me to discuss my progress in the internship.
“Would you be interested in writing a profile piece?” Sara asked.
Without hesitation I exclaimed, “I would love to.”
It was settled that I would write a piece for the Everyday Hero section of the magazine, which highlights a devout volunteer who goes beyond the call of duty. I was assigned to interview Sheila Washington, library volunteer at the Haddington branch of the Free Library of Philadelphia.
My first instinct before interviewing anybody is to research them on Google. Unfortunately, I didn’t find any information on her. I usually can stumble on an article about the person from a previous interview. Other than one quote from 2008, she was basically invisible online. I read a short blurb given to me by the person who nominated her, hoping to get more background information, but it described Washington’s job title and volunteer efforts in just four sentences.
I had to prepare my questions with little prior knowledge about her. Luckily, Washington loves to talk. When I called her for the interview, she was really excited to speak with me about her enthusiasm for working with kids and the library. When I asked about the garden she cares for as President of the Friends of the Haddington Library, Washington praised the children and community for helping beautify the library’s garden. Her energy was infectious. I interviewed three other people, who all attested to Washington’s passionate character.
When it came to actually writing the piece, I was stuck. I can usually spew out the words easily when after an interesting interview, because the person’s passion is so inspiring that I know exactly what to say. In this case, since I was the first journalist to be writing her story, I felt the need to convey her achievements and personality as accurately as possible. I spent days listening to the interview and going through drafts, re-editing over and over again.
I was terrified to hand in my piece. It wasn’t perfect. But I knew that I couldn’t look at it any longer. It needed fresh eyes. I emailed it to Sara, explaining that I thought it could be revised more, and asked for suggestions.
A week later, I received some comments with minor edits and requests for more clarification. The article was shared throughout the office along with the other pieces for the December issue of Grid. The publisher even praised me for writing a solid story, which really boosted my confidence. Producing that article really proved to me that I have the ability to write for print magazines. Getting my first byline in print was tough but extremely rewarding. It reaffirmed for me the joy I have telling people’s stories and the choices I’ve made during my time at Arcadia. I’m working in the right industry.
Photo by Jared Gruenwald