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Category: Internship Thoughts

Some Final Thoughts…

My internship with Greenspun Media Group has come to an end. I’ve had my last weekend in Vegas and now I’m preparing for a 2,000 mile journey back across the country to Ohio.

My internship experience was awesome. That’s a simple description, but it’s an honest one. I could not be happier with the opportunities I had, the people I met, or the fun times in Vegas. I got everything out of this internship that a college kid could want.

I had the freedom to pitch stories (even if they were somewhat out of the box), work in a number of different mediums, and cover some big-time events. In most places, interns are much more restricted and work within a specific program. Not here.

During my ten weeks here, I had my articles, videos and photos published on the website, in the newspaper and air on television. I produced about 30 articles and 15 videos. I wrote two long enterprising stories (that have still yet to run online), and had a significant hand in a project for the UNLV Rebels site.

This wasn’t a coffee-fetching internship.

Throughout my time here, I kept many of the media credentials I received for various sporting events. As I was packing up my stuff this weekend, I looked through these credentials and realized how I got to cover some events I would be pumped to cover for a job, let alone an internship.

I covered Major League Baseball spring training, a big-time NASCAR race, UNLV basketball and football, the Mountain West Conference Tournament, one of the biggest bowling tournaments in the world, a rodeo and high school state championships. Vegas has some great sporting events, and I had a hand in covering many of them during this internship.

I’m leaving here with some great clips and videos, but the most valuable part of the internship were the things I learned. The people here at the Las Vegas Sun are all super talented, and watching them work on a daily basis was a great learning tool by itself.

The concept I probably learned the most about during the internship was how to use web to tell good news stories. The Internet offers so many ways to tell a story that traditional mediums can’t do, and this internship helped teach me ways to utilize the opportunities available on the Internet. The mentality here is definitely to use the Internet to your advantage. Don’t fear it.

Yes, the news industry is in trouble. Veryyy big trouble. But I’m confident the skills I learned at this internship will help me in the future. Probably more than I even know. The mentality people have at the Las Vegas Sun is forward thinking, and in times like these, having that kind of approach is critical.

I loved working at Greenspun Media, and I could definitely see myself coming back here. The people in our office are great, the sports are awesome and the work is fun.

And, of course, Vegas isn’t a bad place to live. :)

Meeting a legend

One of the best parts of journalism is getting to attend awesome events, have great access and meet some pretty famous people. This was part of the attraction I had to journalism when I first developed an interest for the profession while in high school. In many ways, the awe factor of meeting and interviewing celebrities or famous athletes has worn off, but not completely.

Last weekend I had one of the most memorable interviews in my experience as a journalist. I got to have lunch with Pete Rose.

I’m a baseball fan. I always have been, and likely always will be, and Pete Rose is a baseball legend. Whether it’s the way he played the game, or getting kicked out of the game for betting on it, Rose is name is transcends the sport. When I’m trying to decide if an athlete is really famous, I usually think about if my mom recognizes the name. If she does, then he has a big name. My mom definitely knows Pete Rose.

Anyway, I’m working on a feature story about Rose that is going to run this week. Rose works in Vegas 15 days a month signing autographs at a local sports memorabilia shop, and I thought that made a good story. I set up an interview, thinking I would get 15 minutes in the back room. But when I arrived, Rose said he was about to go to lunch and asked if I would like to join and just do the interview over lunch.

Of course I did!

So we went to lunch for over an hour, and I had a great interview out of it. I had the kind of access journalists hope to get when they do a big feature article, and I loved it. At first, I was somewhat in awe of baseball’s hit king, but I quickly had to get into journalist mode and make sure to turn a good opportunity into a good interview, and then that into a good story. I found out that is easier said than done.

As great a time as I had at lunch doing the interview, the highlight for me came right before we sat down to eat. As we were standing at the entrance of Planet Hollywood Restaurant, people are just staring at Rose, asking to get pictures with him and coming by to shake his hand. For the first time during an interview, I really felt like I was talking with someone famous.

Then I felt someone tap me on the arm. I turned around to see a lady, who I assumed would ask, “Is that Pete Rose?”

But she looks at me and says, “are you Garrett from Gridiron Glory?” I couldn’t believe it. I was standing next to a baseball legend, and I got recognized for a high school football TV show in Athens, Ohio. Priceless.

They were vacationing in Vegas from the Athens area, and recognized me from Gridiron Glory. It was a great moment, filled with irony, and probably a story I’ll remember for the rest of my life!

Crazy Couple Weeks

The past few weeks out here in Vegas have been everything you expect from life in Las Vegas: fast paced, exciting and full of big events. I’ve had my hand in a several projects here at the Sun, and they have certainly kept me busy.

Last weekend, the NASCAR Shelby 427 Sprint Cup Series race came to town, and I covered the race on Sunday. We had a number of reporters/ photogs/ video people at the race, and I wrote two stories. Overall, we had about 20 stories, 10 videos, several hundred photos, an timeline of events, several blogs and columns on the race. We like to do things big.

Last weekend, we also had the high school basketball state championships in town, and I covered a number of the games.

Then this Wednesday and Thursday Major League Baseball came to town for Big League Weekend. The Cubs and White Sox played two spring training games at Cashman Field, the minor league field for the Las Vegas 51′s. Both games had sold out crowds and great atmospheres. Yeah, it was just spring training, but Cubs and White Sox fans treat every game like it’s game 7 of the World Series.

I was one of the two sports reporters from the Sun covering Big League Weekend, and I loved it. Covering major league baseball is a great time, and I think being a beat reporter for a MLB team is one of the coolest jobs to have. I produced a video about the weekend, and also wrote an article about the intensity of the rivalry.

With NASCAR, Big League Weekend and basketball state championships over, now it’s time to start wrapping up things here in Vegas. Only two weeks left. I had two big projects during my internship (in addition to the day-to-day work), and I’m getting close to having those ready to go live.

I think those projects are going to be my best work of this internship, and also some of my proudest work as a journalist. I’m pumped for it.

That’s unfortunate

I learned today that the Columbus Dispatch laid off 45 employees. I guess they started informing people around 7 AM Tuesday morning about whether or not they were going to be around anymore.

I’ve interned at the Dispatch three times. Once as a “follow-around-the-reporter” intern during my senior year in high school. Then twice as a city desk intern during my long winter break. I’ve spent a lot of time at the Dispatch, and know a lot of people there, so it was sad to hear about the layoffs. Not sure who made it through the layoffs, but I’d definitely like to know who survived and what areas were hit the hardest.

Like I said in a previous post, times are definitely tough. As journalists, we need to find ways to give people content they want to read and watch. I love what I’m doing here at the Sun, and I’m learning about some ways to do just that.

As hard as it is to believe, my time here is getting close to winding down. I have just over two weeks left. But I’m going to be busy and make the most of that time.

The next two days I’m covering MLB spring training in town. Then we have the West Coast Conference tournament this weekend, high school soccer state championships and the Mountain West conference tournament. Then it’s March Madness, which is a big deal in Vegas. So in the Vegas sports scene, I’ll be busy.

I also have a couple of big projects that will be rolling out during that time, and I can’t wait to see how they look!

Let’s go racin’

This weekend I got my first taste of the world of NASCAR at the Shelby 427 Sprint Cup Series at the Las Vegas Motor Speedway. For someone who had never been to a NASCAR event, it was an interesting experience. You don’t realize how fast 200 MPH really is until you’re standing along the fence of the track and watching as the cars wiz by.

Also, you can’t really appreciate how big the track is until you’re standing there in the middle of it. Standing in the middle of the infield, you can’t even see the other side of the track.

NASCAR is an interesting sport because in person, watching the race isn’t really that great of a viewing experience. You can’t see all of the cars at once, and you spend a couple of hours watching cars drive in a circle. I think it’s much better to watch on TV. Still, NASCAR gets huge attendance numbers. HUGE.

ABout 120,000 came out to the race Sunday in Vegas. And one of the big reasons all these people come to the race has more to do with experience rather than the sport. People tailgate all weekend, and the race basically becomes one big party. In our coverage, we tried to capture some of this interest, and I wrote a story about the tailgaters.

Altogether, we blew up our coverage of the race. It seemed like half of our office was out covering the race, and during the week we had about 20 articles, 5 videos, several blogs and about 200 photos. Not bad for a newspaper!

Have a plan… but write it in pencil

Tonight gave me another example in my career about the danger of going into a story with an exact plan. Sure, you want to have a plan, or an idea about what you want to do with a story when you go to cover an event. But not too much of a plan.

As a journalist, you have to be able to adapt and take in everything going on around you. When you go into a situation with an outline of your story already in your head, then things have a funny way of ruining that outline.

Tonight I had to cover two high school basketball games and write a story for both web and for print. Most of what I do is web based, but this story was going in print also. An editor told me which two teams were expected to win, and let me know what he was looking for with the story.

So I went into the game with a framework of the story already in place. But like I said, those kinds of things never really seem to work out like your expect. In the first game the team that was expected to lose, ended up winning. Surprise, surprise. So much for that story I already had in my head.

That changed everything. Then in the second game, I wanted to do a piece about about the losing team and the good season they had. But they just lost a close game, so the coaches and players weren’t too thrilled to talk about this wonderful season. Again, so much for that perfect outline.

In sports reporting, that always seems to be the case. If you want the outcome of the game to change suddenly, then start writing your story with a specific angle. Then something crazy will happen and your original story can get tossed out the window.

I remember a couple years ago covering a swim meet for the local newspaper, and I started to write up the story in my notebook. The meet looked to be pretty well in hand, and when you’re sitting inside at a swim meet for several hours, all you can really think about is what is finding a way to get out of there ASAP.

So I started writing up the story, and as the meet went on, the story I had drafted ended up being a complete waste. One team came from nowhere to surprise everyone and win the meet championship. My original story was scrapped and it was back to the drawing board for me.

Just like that swim meet, the basketball games tonight once again provided me with another example of why it is dangerous to go into a situation being overly prepared to take a story in a certain direction. Another good lesson to learn from an internship.

Nobody’s immune

Just like everybody else, I get tired of hearing and talking about the recession. It’s not good, and everybody knows it. But it is a very real concern, especially for people in the media. Articles like this make it difficult to ignore.

If ESPN is even hurting, that can’t be good.

Competition

In many ways Las Vegas is a very interesting town. It’s a place built on tourism. A place where people come to spend money, party and basically behave badly. The motto for the town is “What happens in Vegas stay in Vegas,” and that should tell you everything about the mentality of people visiting here.

Another characteristic that makes Vegas a unique place is that it is a major city still with two competing daily newspapers. The Las Vegas Sun and Las Vegas Review-Journal are published on a daily basis and compete to provide better print content and better online coverage. Most cities only have one major daily newspaper, so coming to a place with two papers is something new for me.

With two newspapers in town, one of the main things I’ve noticed is how competition pushes you to continually provide good stories and deliver them in innovative ways. Unlike cities with just one newspaper, the Las Vegas Sun doesn’t have a monopoly on the news here in Vegas, and we’re in constant competition with the RJ. If people don’t feel like we provide accurate content or don’t have enough information, then they can just go to the RJ.

We have to provide the best, most complete coverage of people won’t read our newspaper or visit our website. It’s that simple.

I’ll speak from a sports coverage perspective, because that’s what I do. From the start, the RJ has a leg up on us because it has an agreement with Nevada High School Athletics that requires coaches of every sport to call in their scores to the RJ every night. We don’t have that kind of agreement, so we have to take a slightly different approach.

With the way things are right now, we’re not going to have every single score each night from boy’s basketball, girl’s basketball, soccer, volleyball, golf, etc. However, we can cover as many games as possible, and give those games great coverage.

For example, the high school basketball playoffs are going on right now, and we covered a big game the other day. Like many of our sports stories, we had an article, a video and a photo gallery. One of our reporters also had an awesome story about on of the kids getting a scholarship offer from UNLV…as a freshman. So that’s two stories, a video and photo gallery. The coverage we had was great and I had a good time putting together the video.

Now we don’t just cover events this way because we have a competitor here in Vegas. Knowing the people at the Sun, I think the Sun would cover events this way regardless, because that’s part of what we’re supposed to do as journalists. But having a competitor right there, trying to beat you on every story, can always give you a little extra incentive :)

The Lead Image

One of my favorite parts of the design of www.lasvegassun.com is that the main “image” on the site is often a video. This lead image sometimes is a stand-alone video, without much of a print component. Other times, the image is attached to an article, and the video is used as supplement to the article, or vice-versa.

Either way, I like how we can make the video the lead image for a story. With the video as a top image, you can view the video right from the homepage, in small screen or full screen view. Also, you can click on the headline of the article, read that, and then watch the video on the screen with the article. This gives the reader/viewer several options, and hopefully keeps them clicking around on the site for a while.

The other day, a video I did about a local basketball team living together was the lead image on the website. This story was a supplement to an article one of our writers did about the basketball team. The video and article worked well together. They also were fine one their own. You didn’t have to see one to understand the other.

Making the video the lead image is a fascinating way to attract some more viewers and liven up the homepage. When I see a video as the main image on a newspaper website, it seems a little more attractive and well done. ESPN.com uses the video as the main image all the time now. ESPN recently rolled out it’s new redesigned website, and it made a larger space for the lead image, also making it a video player. Before, the video player was a smaller screen on the right side of the page.

Rarely is the Sun’s lead image only a single photo. It is almost always a video or photo gallery, giving people a little more than they anticipate.

Interesting Times

Most people wouldn’t say this is the most appealing time to go into journalism. Actually, very few people would probably say that. It’s no secret ad revenues are declining, circulation numbers are declining, the economy is in a recession, the sky is falling…..

It seems like most conversations about journalism start with something like, “How can we save newspapers? Is journalism dead? Is local TV over? Will we have newspapers is 10 years?” And the list goes on, and on and on…

Here’s an article from the Wall Street Journal about the fate of local TV.

Here’s one from Time Magazine about how to save newspapers.

I’m not arguing that it’s tough. Everybody knows that. My nine-year brother knows that. Prospects for the news industry look bleak.

However, it’s pretty darn exciting. Times are tough, but that forces us to work harder. We’re forced to find better ways to deliver the news, to see what works and what doesn’t, and to figure what people want to see and read.

Maybe I’m just naive, or looking at the glass half-full, but I think this is one of the most exciting times to go into journalism. Maybe not the most promising for everybody in the business, but it is exciting. I’m tired of people saying, “you sure?,” when I tell them I’m going into journalism.

The media has never been more aware of viewer’s habits and interests, and we’re having conversations that would never take place if everything were golden. But since money is an issue, we (the media) are trying to innovate. We don’t have the luxury of just sticking with the same old system.

We have to go a completely new direction, and that is part of the reason I like interning at the Las Vegas Sun. I’m surrounded by people who are trying innovative things, and looking for ways to make our website better. Stuff may not always work out perfectly, but we’re taking a chance and trying to figure it out.

I like this aspect of being in the media today. Twenty years ago everything was more formulated. People wanted to become a newspaper writer, or a TV anchor, or a photographer. Today the lines have blurred. I just want to be a journalist. I want to tell stories, and I want to figure out cool ways to do so.

And with the ways things are today, I don’t really have another choice. :)