10.30.2009

The Past Three Months

Since July of this year, I've been interning in the newsroom at AM 1420 KGNB radio in New Braunfels, Texas. KGNB is half of New Braunfels Communications, which also includes FM 92.1 KNBT. I'd like to share a few things I've learned.

Some people will tell you that much of what is learned at a university will be either overlooked or directly contradicted once you get out into "the real world." This is only partially true. Granted I have not yet learned everything I need to know to earn my degree in journalism, but I have certainly applied some of me college knowledge (like that rhyme?) to my internship.

For one, the fact that I have an internship is proof that Texas State School of Journalism and Mass Communication has drilled at least one thing into my head. I can't tell you how many times I've heard from advisors, professors, guest speakers and graduate students that internships are incredibly important. And yet I still find my peers graduating without experience in their field and scrambling to find a job, only to wait tables for a year. So my internship is a testament to the wisdom of my university authorities.

Since I've been working in the newsroom, I've managed to apply my reporting skills, mostly learned in high school and still being refined. But I've found that reporting for a radio station is very different than working in print. Since my days of UIL journalism competitions, I've come to find that beginning a question with, "Can you tell me about..." will entice your source to speak in complete sentences. There are no ellipses in radio, no way to start a quotation for someone and let them fill in the blanks. My writing has to be conversational and concise but still interesting. And people have to be able to listen to my voice for spans of time without the urge to turn the dial. That's been a challenge, considering I tend to talk like a 15-year-old girl from the valley.

I credit a few lessons solely to my internship. Until I was asked to report city council meetings, school board meetings, Outer Loop Task Force meetings and the like, I understood very little about local governments. I'm easily entertained, even when my task is making a trip to the district attorney's office to pick up a package in the rain. Sometimes local government is boring, but I've learned that our niche market wants to know about where their tax dollars are going, new parking restrictions downtown, and even who is being charged with violating the Resign to Run Rule. (It's Comal County Commissioner Greg Parker.)

I can say though that many lecturers have spoken of the importance of being hyperlocal. This market becomes more competitive every day, and if your audience doesn't feel connected to their news source, they might go elsewhere. Charlotte-Anne Lucas of NowCast San Antonio did a great job of touching on this during Mass Comm Week at Texas State. Incorporating elements of social media has also become increasingly important. Your audience wants news and demand to receive it in ways that are most convenient to them. So be it if that means publishing a print format, updating online with multimedia content, sending messages via SMS, Twitter, E-mail and Facebook. As our audience evolves, so must the industry. And that is the best lesson I've learned so far.

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