Tuesday, August 27, 2013

Summer of learning

Catherine "Cat" Coyle recently completed a summer internship in our newsroom. A Boyertown grad from Gilbertsville, Cat is now a sophomore at Saint Joseph’s University in Philadelphia studying English and international relations. She hopes to continue studying journalism and enter the field as a reporter specializing in foreign affairs or environmental science. 
 Cat brought to our newsroom enthusiasm, talent, and a willingness to tackle any aspect of our multi-tasking jobs that we threw at her. She learned by assisting us with page production, story assignments, social media updates and even transcribing Sound-Off.

When we asked her what she learned and what she loved here, she replied, "Everything!" Indeed, the feeling was mutual. 
Our thanks to Cat for sharing your love of journalism with us. We know you have a great future ahead of you. 

I asked Cat to write her perspective on the summer as a guest blog item. Here it is:

By Cat Coyle

Many people ask me why I would want to enter the field of journalism at a time like this. The business is going through changes like it has never seen before. The only way for a publication to survive and prosper today is to constantly adapt, and change is not easy.
But I know just how passionate and driven many journalists are to find a way to make it work. The world needs journalists, and I want to be one.

I had no idea what to expect as I walked up the street on my first day as The Mercury’s summer news intern. I never thought that in my three months here, I’d meet an Olympian, or fall into a creek while covering a summer camp event. I expected some of the skills and tools that I would learn to use, but not the great teachers that I would encounter in the newsroom.  I also certainly never thought that I would be as sad to go as I am.
However, I am excited to carry with me the many skills learned and friendships formed in the newsroom on the second floor of the North Hanover Street building that I was so nervous walking into on that first day.
On my first day, Mercury reporter Caroline Sweeney took me to the police station just down the road and introduced me to the chief. I watched with awe at her ease and humor as she chatted with everyone at the station. The number one lesson I learned from Caroline is to always be nice. If you are polite and courteous with people, they will want to talk to you, not avoid you. Having people avoid you is a classic journalist problem.
One big part of my job this summer was to assist with the Mercury’s social media presence. Online editor Eileen Faust good-naturedly taught me the tools of the trade, making me a (semi)expert of Facebook, Twitter, Storify, and, of course, photo galleries. It’s harder than it looks.
These are some of the skills that I can’t wait to bring to The Hawk this semester. To keep us competitive with other college newspapers, we must establish a stronger social media presence. A newspaper’s job is to keep a dialogue moving within their community. I think that the Mercury does an excellent job at interacting with their readers and keeping the conversation going.
As the community engagement editor, Diane Hoffman also makes this happen. Diane encouraged me to put together a big project that would interact with the community. For the month of July, I visited multiple summer camps, taking video and interviewing campers and counselors.
My project turned into a “day in the life of a camp counselor” article by the suggestion of Evan Brandt. Diane helped me realize how important it is to dedicate time to a project and be passionate about a subject - the story will always turn out the best that way. We also had lots of fun acting like children at summer camp. Well, that was mostly me.
Evan also helped me to cover my first municipal meeting. Afterward, he patiently sat down with me and helped me edit my story to make sure the important facts were always clear, but that the story stayed dynamic rather than static. He taught me that the “conflict is the story,” something that I have thought about every time I have sat down to write a story since.  His insight and writing tips will definitely not be forgotten, along with his sass and hilarious office readings of “The Onion”.
Another thing I am proud to take with me after this summer is the wider array of skills I have learned. In addition to writing feature, business, and police news stories, of which I had little to no previous experience, I learned to tackle layout.
Dubbed the “duchess of death,” by city editor Tony Phyrillas after successfully finishing the obituary page after multiple tries, I learned to really enjoy putting a page together and finding what art makes the most sense where. (Even if Donna Rovins had to help me sixteen times every day.) 
Cheryl Thornburg, features editor, assigned me engaging feature stories that have helped me learn that I like writing stories about people and their experiences.  Before The Mercury, I stuck with ‘hard’ news stories. I am so glad to have been given the chance to realize how great it is to tell someone else’s story.
From learning the joys of running the “Sound Off” column from Sue Klaus to mercilessly teasing Caroline about her birthplace with Evan and Frank Otto, the Mercury has taught me how important it is to fill the workplace with laughs. Every time Bill Coldren walks in the door and updates every one of the latest drama, no one can help but smile. I have always loved the energy of the newsroom of my university’s publication- I was relived and excited to find the same in a professional newsroom.
Lastly, I’d like to thank Editor Nancy March for the opportunity she gave me by letting me intern with The Mercury this summer. I was only just finishing my freshman year when I approached The Mercury, and I am incredibly lucky to have been given the chance to work here. Nancy encouraged me to work to my fullest potential and made sure that I experienced all aspects of the newsroom and life as a reporter. She is the kind of manager you want to work for and impress.
Not everyone wants to go into this field right now, but my experiences at The Mercury have only confirmed my belief that the world is always going to need people who are trying to find the truth, and I want to be one of them.