My Summer Experience: Alissa Widman
Interned at The Columbus Dispatch
My Summer Experience
Senior Journalism Major
Interned at The Columbus Dispatch newspaper
Think back to July 20. What were you doing in the early hours of that Friday morning?
Like most Americans, you were probably rummaging websites or flipping through television channels, seeking information as graphic headlines flooded news outlets nationwide. That day, a deadly shooting at an Aurora, Co., movie theater left 12 killed and dozens wounded at a midnight premiere. And as Americans everywhere grappled with questions, terrified, shocked and confused, it was my job to find the answers.
I've always been told journalists write the first draft of history. This summer, I finally had my chance.
I spent 12 weeks interning at The Columbus Dispatch, one of Ohio's largest newspapers. It was an incredible opportunity for an aspiring reporter like me. The Associated Press named The Dispatch Ohio's best first-division newspaper in 2011. It serves about 200,000 daily print readers, mostly in central Ohio.
I'll admit the idea of writing for an audience eight times the size of my hometown's population was a little intimidating at first. But on days like July 20, I quickly learned that at any newspaper, no matter how big or how small, the basics never change. As a fellow intern and I traveled throughout our state's capital city interviewing people about their concerns, we captured human emotions so our readers could relate to our work. When we gathered information from public officials, we aimed to answer questions any reader would ask: Who did this tragedy impact? Is Ohio prepared to handle a similar situation? What does this mean for gun control? What now?
The result - a front-page centerpiece story to inform the public and withstand time, as well as a learning experience that helped me grow as both a person and as a reporter.
Throughout my internship, I met dozens of talented journalists who helped me hone new skills every day. The passionate seasoned veterans debunked any doubts I had about burning out early in my career. The young new hires gave me hope for when I head into the job market this winter. But most importantly, the entire staff taught me the most important lesson of journalism: it's not about me, it's about you.
The Dispatch's staff exemplifies service to its readers with thoughtful, informative reporting. Five wonderful education reporters mentored me throughout my internship.As an aspiring education reporter, I learned so much from their thorough watchdog reporting and their ability to hold local school officials to high standards. In a true "small world" situation, I met a projects reporter from my hometown of Sandusky, who in 2008 exposed flaws in Ohio's use of DNA evidence in criminal cases. His ongoing, award-winning work has led to the exoneration of four men from prison through DNA testing. Through his reporting, they have regained their lives.
While talking with these amazing journalists, I learned that most reporters begin their careers similarly: young college students or recent graduates just waiting for an opportunity to make an impact. But I also learned I can start making an impact now. I shouldn't waste my time waiting.
Ben Marrison, The Dispatch's editor and a Bowling Green State University alumnus, gave our group of 20 interns simple, but powerful instructions when he spoke to us at our first of many weekly intern lunches. His message is my unofficial motto as I continue my career as a reporter:
"Write every story like it's the most important one you have ever written. Write every story like it's going on the front page, even if it probably won't. And most importantly, write every story like it's your last."
This semester is my last at Bowling Green State University. I'm so grateful and excited I can apply what I've learned at The Dispatch to serve you, the students, as a senior reporter for our student newspaper, The BG News. No matter how big or how small, every story matters because it impacts you, my readers. So I'll continue to write every story like it's the last time I'll ever see my name in print.
After all, without you, the career I love wouldn't be possible.