You laugh, you learn

I like variety. While it wasn’t the initial reason I was drawn to journalism, it’s certainly one of the perks. My job requires me to develop a wide range of skills while reporting and writing about any number of topics. It’s immensely satisfying work.

And for four years, that work has also included managing interns. I had a wonderful experience as a Birmingham magazine intern back in 2004, so I knew both how much value they could offer the publication and how much students could learn in the process. But the magazine’s internship program had fallen by the wayside.

After convincing my then-boss to let us resurrect the program, a colleague and I quickly set about finding our first intern. Over time, the program has become increasingly competitive and the skills students bring change. One thing remains the same from semester to semester: I’m so lucky to be these students’ boss.

I learn something new every semester because these kids bring so much variety themselves. I try to assign them work that will help them attain their career goals while teaching them as much as I can about magazine publishing. They’ve taught me so many lessons: how to be a better boss, how to guide a student or writer to the “a-ha!” moment, how to teach AP style, how to be patient, how to help someone develop time-management skills without micromanaging them, how to plan my days and tasks so that I have plenty of time for them, how to be a professional reference, how to encourage them through challenging times in the industry–and so much more.

This semester’s interns brought yet another experience. Traditionally, I have two students at a time. They work part-time and share a desk, so their schedules don’t overlap.

But this summer, I shared a full-time intern with another department and also managed a part-time intern. As a result, they not only got to know each other, they worked together on a number of tasks. And the resulting teamwork was a beautiful thing. I didn’t have to walk them through collaboration; they naturally turned to each other and worked to figure out the best solution to any assignment.

That was even so in moments when they could have instead aimed to see who could be the best; when I asked them both to come up with a head and dek for a specific story, they worked on it together rather than trying to see whose would end up in print.

These students turned to each other time and again throughout the summer, cheering each other on and lending a hand when the other needed help or feedback. As one prepares to return to school and the other faces a commencement march, I feel something akin to the pride of a parent. I can’t wait to see what’s up next for these young people.

This post is dedicated to Bennett Sumner Rolan, Sarah Kate Boltz, Blake Tommey, Molly Folse, Emily Etheredge, Laura Sibley, Katie Brizendine Jackson, Lindsey Shelton, Clair McLafferty, Lauren Sharpe Denton, Jena Hippensteel, Stephanie Brumfield, Lauren Schneider, Meg Bowden, Jared Downing, Sarah Waller, Jessilyn Justice, Katie Stewart, Rachel Freeny, Steven Katona and Melody Kitchens. I am so honored to have been a part of your lives.

The title of this post is taken from Alanis Morissette’s “You Live, You Learn.”

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Filed under Autobiography, Journalism

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  1. Pingback: The kids are alright | Carla Jean Whitley | Ink-stained Life

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