By Olivia Mohr, Western Kentucky University, Jessamine Journal
I confess I applied for internships at large daily newspapers in Kentucky before I applied for an internship through the KPA and accepted a position offered to me in the county where I’ve grown up since the second grade. And I was disappointed I didn’t get them.
I have to do an internship at a daily paper with a strong online presence, I thought. I have to step outside of my comfy bubble covering features and gain experience covering hard, breaking news to be taken seriously as a journalist, I thought.
But when those larger papers didn’t accept me and I got an internship at the Jessamine Journal in Nicholasville, which is a weekly paper for the Jessamine County area with a strong focus on feature writing, I was still excited. I was going to get paid, the newsroom was just 15 minutes from my house, I was going to be covering the community where I grew up and at least I had an internship. Things were looking up.
The editor of the Jessamine Journal, Brittany Fuller, reached out to me for an interview because when I’m not at Western Kentucky University in Bowling Green, where I’m a senior studying journalism and English, I’m living with my parents in Jessamine County, where I’ve lived since I was 7 years old.
During our interview, I appreciated it and got excited when she told me I wouldn’t just be working as a reporter but would also be shooting photos for my stories, running the publication’s social media platforms, building the publication’s website occasionally and performing other tasks. I was excited to get out of my comfort zone in that way because I’ve always thought of myself as just a writer. Sure enough, with more experience, I gained more of an appreciation for photography, social media and digital journalism.
Though the Jessamine Journal focuses much more on its print product than its website, I found how important an online and social media presence is for gaining readership and how the audience can vary across platforms. Also, the Journal is short-staffed — it was just my editor and me as the sole reporters and photographers — but it meant I got to dabble into a bit of everything and take on a lot of assignments, which I appreciated.
One thing I enjoyed covering that intimidated me a bit but allowed me to step out of my comfort zone was listening to and covering city commission meetings in Nicholasville regarding a controversial intent to annex a large number of acres from the county to the city. Residents near the land were concerned a potential annexation would affect their quality of life and would decrease the property value of their existing homes if a large development were eventually built on the acres in question.
It was a giant, earth-shattering issue to the people of the community — residents of the neighborhoods near the acres in question stopped by our newsroom, signed petitions and held meetings together about the issue. Since the people were so passionate and it was so controversial in the community, I wanted to handle the issue with care.
I gained more of an appreciation for the importance of goings-on with small-town governments — even the smallest of governments need to be monitored and held accountable, and local journalism plays a large role in making people aware of what local politicians are up to.
I also loved covering the smaller, human-interest stories. There is such a richness in the community that I discovered that I never quite noticed before even though I grew up in Jessamine County, and there are so many organizations and events and interesting people right outside my door I never would have known existed if it weren’t for this wonderful internship opportunity.