Deep Fried Diary: Day 1

Well, North Carolina, the State Fair has finally returned and Honey Bee will be buzzing around with the rest of the Deep Fried Crew from time to time over the next week and a half to celebrate North Carolina’s Homecoming!

Today was the first full day of the fair and since I had the day off work, I made my way over to the fairgrounds to spend the day with Public Affairs in the Press Office.

Shortly after I arrived, I headed over to the flower show for the opening ceremony. Before it  started, they sent Rebecca (this year’s intern) and me back to the press office to grab something that had been left behind. So, we set off on our adventure. In the golf cart. With me behind the wheel. Scary, I know. The good news is that we survived, as did the people around us (even the stupid jerks who thought it was funny to play chicken with the golf cart).

This year, Agricultural Commissioner Steve Troxler introduced his “homecoming court” for this year’s fair: 10 mascots for 10 of North Carolina’s biggest agricultural commodities. They even used a picture I took on their Facebook page!

After the opening ceremony, we went to a lunch, where I helped served drinks. (Even on my day off, I can’t get away from “refreshing beverages,” “my pleasures” and taking food out to people’s tables.)

Later that afternoon, I worked on a press release for the House-Autry Mills cooking contests.

Jen and I also went all around the fairgrounds distributed signs for the scavenger hunt.

For dinner, Rebecca and I went out in search of some deep fried goodness. Oh, did we ever find some! I decided to stick with my fair favorite, a roasted ear of corn. While I was waiting for my corn to finish cooking, however, we noticed that the place next door had Pumpkin Funnel Cakes. It was DELICIOUS! it was topped with cinnamon sugar and cream cheese icing! YUM!

pumpkin funnel cake

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The rest of my semester: Internship

ImageThe last time I blogged about my internship experience in Washington, D.C. was less than two weeks into my time at Religion News Service. I came to Washington, D.C. armed with a couple of canned classroom news articles, a handful of public relations stories and a whole lot of encouragement back home. I wasn’t exactly the most qualified person to become a reporter in our nation’s capitol city. Quite frankly, I was worried that I couldn’t do it, that I was unqualified. This semester taught me a lot about who I was and what I could do.

 

At the end of the second week, I attended my first congressional hearing. The topic of the day was Sikhs pushing for more legal protections. They want the government to track hate crimes against them and other minority groups not yet being tracked. It included moving testimony from a survivor of the Oak Creek, Wis. shooting, whose mother was killed.

The following week I covered the story of the anti-Muslim ads in New York’s subway system. While I didn’t feel like this was one of my better stories content wise, it was my most viewed story (from what I can tell) on On Faith. It was shared 152 times on Facebook and 31 times on Twitter.

The next week, I tackled two poll stories.

The first addressed how most Americans don’t believe that Scientology was a real religion. While doing my research, I came to the conclusion that Scientologists remind me of a used car salesmen. They’re slick, and they use deceptive figures that don’t add up. They’re too nice, and they only tell you what they want you to hear. They put on a well-polished act, but in the end, no one would  give me the information that I wanted.

The second story was about a poll that showed that Most Americans don’t mind religious athletes showing their faith on and off the field through religious gestures, prayers and comments. It is because of this story that Tim Tebow’s picture show’s up next to mine when you Google my name (trust me—I’m not complaining about that!).

Week five was a crazy week. It happened to coincide with the Religion Newswriters Association Conference, so Kevin and Lauren were particularly busy trying to get ahead that week.

My big story for the week was an event with the Berkley Center for Religion, Peace and World Affairs at Georgetown University on Thursday. I spent much of Tuesday and Wednesday preparing for the event. I went through pages and pages of data trying to figure out what to write about.

I got lost on my way there, but thanks to my handy iPhone, I made it there (eventually). I listened to the event, and then I had a phone interview with someone from an opposing organization that I had set up earlier. His phone connection was horrible, so it took a really long time to do the interview, because he kept cutting out and having to call me back.

When I finished that interview, I found a coffee shop and tried my best to write my story. I was running really close to deadline by now, and under the pressure, I simply couldn’t figure out what the new information was and what the old information was and how to best present it.

I finished it up and sent it in, and then my phone died (before I could figure out how to get the Religion News Writers Association conference). So, I found the Apple store, bought a charger for my phone and plugged it into my computer. While I was in there, I also looked up bus directions for the place I was supposed to meet Lauren and Kevin. This was only mildly successful (the cord was WAY too short—5 inches), so I couldn’t make calls while it was plugged into my computer.

When I finally got my phone running again, I had several missed calls from Kevin and Lauren. They had some questions, and because they couldn’t get in touch with me, they decided to hold it.

The next week, I rewrote that piece, and rewrote it, and rewrote it. The final draft looked nothing like the first, but Kevin and Lauren decided not to run it, because it was old news.

I spent the majority of this week (that I wasn’t rewriting my Millennial story) updating our address with various publishers throughout the nation.

While this was fairly mundane, I did have one funny incident while making all these phone calls: the previous intern who made the list switched two digits in one of the phone numbers, so I accidentally called Home Depot instead of Harvard University Press. I’m not sure who was more confused, me or the woman who answered the phone!

During week seven, I wrote two stories. The first was about the Family Research Council shooter. He was the first person charged with terrorism charges since the District of Columbia’s 2002 Anti-Terrorism Act. I enjoyed this story because it was straight forward. It made me realize that I might just like cops and crimes reporting.

The second story was a fun one to write, although I had a hard time getting quotes. I wrote about how Muslims and Hindus are the least likely to have sex outside of marriage.

Since the story encompassed developing nations, sex AND religion, it was hard to find experts that could speak to the survey. I called about 20 people, think tanks, universities, etc. in a span of four days. I only got three responses, two of which I used (and the other just didn’t fit in the story).

Hurricane Sandy really threw us for a loop. We were supposed to move the week before, but couldn’t because we weren’t there, we couldn’t move. I spent the majority of my time that week researching for a story that I pitched about deaf churches, as well as getting contacts for a story of Adelle’s.

Week nine was split between researching and writing my “ What won, what lost on 2012 state ballot measures,” moving and interviewing people for my story on Deaf churches.

I even had the opportunity to go to Gallaudet and interview a professor. I also had my first conversation via video relay.

We spent an entire day unpacking our office and getting set up on the tenth floor.

My final full week was spent primarily researching for my story about deaf churches. I made phone calls, did internet research and sent emails.

I also worked on a story that talked about different versions of the Bible and whether or not the order of the books affects the way Christians read it. I contacted a number of Christian universities and interviewed Bible professors.

I also went to a pre-screening of Life of Pi.

On my last day, I wrote the story about Hispanics in America, finished up my article about Bibles and worked on my Life of Pi article. Then we went to lunch at the National Press Club.

Lauren was fantastic. I cannot say enough about her. She was encouraging, and helpful. She would edit my stories with me so I could see what she was changing and why.

Kevin was great, though I had little contact with him for the first half of the semester. He spent a lot of time out of the office because he was having issues getting an au pair for his twins. In addition to giving me many opportunities to write, Kevin tried hard to give me opportunities for experiences. He would send me to press conferences just to learn about topics, even if we weren’t going to run stories on them.

I see RNS’s move as a good thing and a bad thing for future interns. I enjoyed having my own office at the beginning of the semester. I think that having Lauren and Kevin there would have made it that much harder for me to pick up the phone and call sources. However, being in the same room as Lauren made it much easier to ask her questions and it gave the office a much homey feel. I think I would have gotten to know Kevin and Adelle (as well as Lauren) much better if we had been in closer quarters the whole time. I also work better with a steady hum or work going on around me, than I do in solitude and silence. So, being in an office with other people helped me be much more productive.

Perhaps the most valuable lessons learned were lessons about me. I learned strengths, and I learned weaknesses. For example, I am a slow writer and at times, I’m too thorough – I spend too much time researching, and not enough time writing. However, I am dedicated. I will do what it takes to get something done, even if that means that I will spend my entire weekend working on stories for work. I learned that I have a very “can do” attitude and that really counts for something in the work force. Above all, I learned that I can do this.

I am leaving this city armed with far more than what I came with. I am leaving with bylines, stories and confidence.

Here I go!

Well, it’s finally here! I start my internship with Religion News Service tomorrow! I will admit, I am both excited and nervous.

Yesterday afternoon, Sydney (a fellow WJCer) and I met with our mentor, Annalisa. Annalisa is a WJC alum from past semester. Since graduating from Gardner-Webb in May, she has taken a job and moved back to the D.C. area.

During our time together, Annalisa shared with us what she experienced last semester. She talked about the good things and and the hard things that we would face and shared with us from her experiences last semester.

Our talk with Annalisa combined with Friday’s internship oriented class and pizza talkback session with WJC alums have stressed me out. I’m definitely starting to feel overwhelmed… well, it’s more like I’m feeling overwhelmed because I know I’m going to be overwhelmed in the near future (if that makes any sense whatsoever).

This feeling has led to many nagging questions and feelings of unworthiness in my mind… Why am I even here? I don’t know what I’m doing. I’m going to fall on my face this semester (metaphorically AND literally–have you tried to walk on D.C.’s brick sidewalks in heels?). I’m not prepared for this. I’ve never written a real news story before. What if I get two weeks into my internship and realize I hate it? I’m a slow writer, what if I can’t keep up?

Annalisa had the same internship last semester that I have now. She’s told me that my editors are fantastic. They’re really good at teaching and guiding interns through the ins and outs of journalism.

Another thing that Annalisa talked to Sydney and me about was how even though she went through the program last semester and really enjoyed herself, she really didn’t think that she had been called to be a journalist. Her current job actually involves very little writing. She reminded us that we’re constantly learning, growing and developing and that it’s okay if we don’t know what we want to do now or when we finish WJC or even when we graduate from college.

Annalisa’s transparency on that subject meant a lot to me. As I mentioned earlier, sometimes I don’t even know why I’m here. I’m not a journalist, nor had I ever planned to be. I enjoy writing and maybe I do have a future in journalism, but the thing is that I just don’t know yet. All I do know is that this semester is about discovery.

So, to help me stay focused during this semester, I’ve come up with a list of goals for myself. They may seem silly and I’m sure my list of goals will change over time, but this is what I have for now.

  • Have at least one story published in a major newspaper (Washington Post, New York Times, etc.)
  • Meet/talk to someone really famous.
  • Learn a lot.

We’ll see how all this goes as the semester progresses. I’ll do my best to get a quick update up about my first few days at RNS sometime this week.Image

The end of life as I know it (and the beginning of something new)

Today is the end of life as I know it.

Tomorrow, I get in a car, drive for about four and a half hours and move into an apartment with five other girls in the heart of our nation’s capitol. We will all be participating in the Council for Christian Colleges & Universities’ Washington Journalism Center program or American Studies program. In early September, I will begin a journalism internship with the Religion News Service, “a non-profit wire service delivering current, unbiased coverage of religion, ethics and spirituality from around the globe.”

This semester isn’t just about professional development, although that is an essential part. This semester, will be different to say the least. I will have no option other than to be stretched. I will learn/grow life skills such as budgeting and cooking my own meals.  I will form new relationships, both personal and professional and I’ll have to learn how to tackle transportation (and just life in general) in a city larger than any I’ve ever lived in before. So by the end of the semester, I will hopefully be a better writer and a more mature, self-sufficient, confident adult.

These experiences are not the only ones that are shaping my new life; the people around me are changing as well.

Perhaps the biggest change is that exactly one week after my parents leave me in D.C., they too will be packing their bags, uprooting their lives and starting over in a new place. My dad’s company  has given him a 16 month assignment in Wisconsin. They will be moving back to home just before I graduate from Gardner-Webb. This means that for the rest of my time in college, “coming home” will either consist of short vacations with my family in Raleigh, or coming home by myself. It also means that I will spend some holidays in the “Cheese State.”

Another change is that my friends’ lives are changing as well. Between marriage, grad school and internships, my core group from Gardner-Webb has dispersed across the Southeast. My roommate of two years will no longer be there and hopefully, I’ll be taking an RA position when I return.

At home, two of my best friends graduate from college this year (one in December and one in May). Neither of them are really planning on staying in the Raleigh area after graduation.

I have no clue what I’ll be doing next summer, or where. Living in Wisconsin with my parents is one option, as is living in our house in Raleigh. Of course, nothing is really tying me down to either place, so that opens the door to explore internship opportunities in other areas.

After next summer comes my final semester of college, graduation and–the real world.

I normally don’t do well with change. I don’t like not knowing what’s coming next, but surprisingly, I’ve been at peace about the changes. I know that these next few uncertain weeks, months and years are an adventure and the start of something new.

Remember not the former things, nor consider the things of old. Behold, I am doing a new thing; now it springs forth, do you not perceive it? I will make a way in the wilderness and rivers in the desert.  Isaiah 43:18-19