By Kacey Gardner, Senior, Journalism
Stanford. LSU. UC Davis. USC. Yale. If my esteem for The Sacramento Bee wasn’t enough to make me nervous, seeing my name and “Chico State” on the roster of impressive summer interns certainly was.
And as the sole copyediting intern among 10 reporters to be working at the paper, I worried I would be even more of an outsider.
But once I walked into that building on 21st and Q streets, I was relieved to find that my experience in the Chico State journalism department and on The Orion staff had prepared me to work in that newsroom. And that’s what I did each day for eight weeks, starting on my very first night shift.
I was assigned to the news desk, which comprises the A and B sections that include national, state, and local news as well as the editorial pages.
After getting briefly acquainted with the computer systems and copy flow process, I was allowed to jump right in and work as if I were any other copy editor on the desk.
I edited anywhere from eight to 17 items a day. Yes, I counted. And for each story I edited, I also wrote the headline and cutlines for any photos.
Editing at The Bee was similar in some ways to editing at The Orion and different in others. The basic skills of AP style, grammar, spelling, and fact-checking obviously applied, but I found editing Bee stories to be a lot more subtle, as the reporting was more polished and would affect larger communities.
I touched stories ranging from a front page New York Times piece on al-Qaida’s presence in Syria to a local story about a woman who broke the record for the longest Ferris wheel ride, only to have her record beaten the same week. For each story, the most important part of my job was to ensure accuracy, which a single word can make or break.
I was perpetually cautious as I worked with a surprising amount of freedom. The trust the editors put in me made me feel valued and allowed me to work without being overly fearful of criticism. The feedback I did get was always given with patience and encouragement. And I never once was made to feel like a kid who didn’t know anything.
I did turn out to be somewhat of an outsider in the circle of interns, just because my duties and hours were so different from theirs, but I got to spend time with them at weekly lunches put together by the intern coordinators with guest speakers such as Bee Publisher Cheryl Dell and Executive Editor Joyce Terhaar. We got to ask them about their jobs and the industry, and share with them our backgrounds and ambitions.
When I returned to The Orion and Chico State after two months at The Bee, I was more confident than ever that journalism—though in a period of uncertainty and change—is a vital industry, and one I would be honored to work in, especially alongside journalists like the ones I had the pleasure of meeting last summer.