Community journalism: collaborative, family affair

When we had to start thinking about our senior project in early February, I knew I wanted to volunteer for a newspaper and get a feel for professional journalism.

  • Thursday, June 5, 2008 2:23pm
  • Opinion

When we had to start thinking about our senior project in early February, I knew I wanted to volunteer for a newspaper and get a feel for professional journalism.

Throughout high school, I have enjoyed writing and editing for Overlake’s student paper, The Overlake Independent, so it only seemed natural to transform my extracurricular passion into a “real-life” endeavor.

After the onslaught of AP exams, I was set loose from the classrooms on May 13 to start my two-week, full-time volunteer internship at the Redmond Reporter.

After walking into the quaint office and meeting a surprisingly small staff, I quickly realized that a community newspaper is more like a family rather than a typical corporate office. Deadlines are real and everything isn’t always smooth sailing, but there is a refreshingly collaborative and low-key atmosphere.

As it turned out, though, I spent little time at the office. Entrusted with a total of six stories by the end of my internship, I spent most of my time setting up interviews, doing research, and writing articles.

For all the planning I did, there were bound to be many instances when I had to step out of the box and improvise. Probably the most memorable moment of resourcefulness came when I was scheduled to attend an event held, unknowingly, at a 21 and over venue. My first thought was, ‘oops,’ but I quickly recovered the situation by pulling a couple of individuals outside the venue and interviewing them.

It was then I realized that there is nothing structured or straightforward about being a journalist — you’ve just got to go with the flow. During interviews, for example, I found it was important to respond to specific statements the interviewee made, which sometimes meant adjusting my pre-planned questions. It all comes down to staying open-minded and always being in the moment.

As an intern reporter, I also discovered that my inherent passion for writing was not, as I expected, the highlight of my experience at the Redmond Reporter. Sure, writing is a big part of any journalist’s career, but most of the times it is only the end product.

Some of my best times were spent visiting hidden gems in our community and meeting fun, interesting people. Although I’ve grown up in the Redmond area and claim to know it very well, I realized how little I knew after covering a variety of events and individuals in my two weeks at the Reporter. I even found myself relying on MapQuest to locate local businesses and residences.

As active and busy individuals, sometimes we forget to look twice at an independent bookstore or never hear about local fundraisers. Reporters, on the other hand, always have a finger on the pulse of the city.

Having fully embraced the digital age and all it has to offer, I am also interested to see where journalism is headed in the future. Will there still be a hard copy newspaper? Hopefully, there will still be community papers!

Already, The Redmond Reporter and other community papers have regularly updated websites that provide easier access to stories. Big metro papers like The Seattle Times and The Seattle P-I are also focusing more and more on making their websites less of an afterthought and a portal for minute-by-minute breaking news.

Four years from now as I graduate from college, my experience at The Redmond Reporter may be outdated by a more tech-savvy method of delivering news. Still, no matter what advances technology brings, no one questions the importance of reliable and legitimate news.

These past two weeks have shown me that a reporter’s job isn’t as easy as it looks and it also has a very real human element to it – real people writing real stories.

I no longer ignore the bylines because stories are much more than their facts; they are the product of someone’s questioning, deliberation, and maybe even a little adventure.

Jasmine Rana is a senior at The Overlake School and will graduate June 8.


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