This is what being a journalist for 4 months taught me
(This is part of a multi-post series under the working title “I’m sorry for being absent for the past 3 months.” I’ll start here, but more to come later.)
So hi. I’ve been absent for a portion of time.
And for that, I’m so sorry.
As you may recall, I landed an intern position at CBC Vancouver this summer. The radio-focused internship lasted from May to August right here in Vancouver.
There are so many things that I can say about this 4-month, whirlwind experience. It was all at once magical, frightening, crazy, and stressful. But all the same, fulfilling. It taught me a lot about myself, about the industry, and really opened my eyes to what life would be like as a journalist.
This is something I’d wanted to call myself for years. I did a two and a half-year stint in student journalism, and followed that up with producing a radio show that I’ve looked after for the past year and a half. Marry those two experiences together and you have what I just did this past summer.
The learning curve was steep, and journalism slows down for no one. When the news breaks – as it often does – you don’t have the time to take things slow or figure things out. You have one shot to get it done, and it needs to be done efficiently and accurately.
As a perfectionist, this was hard for me to grapple with.
I wanted things to be done right. I wanted things to be done well. I wanted to take my time with things and make sure that everything was perfect.
It was hard for me to part with things and receive critique, especially after I thought I had poured my heart and soul into a piece. But over time, this is what I came to see: in the newsroom – and, by extension, in life – we have to just roll with it.
But the thing is, I’ve never been one to just “roll with it”.
I guess you could also call me inflexible or rigid. I liked things done a certain way and was never particularly spontaneous. I’m a planner through and through – that’s why I have a physical planner and an online calendar. I need to know that things can be done, and I want to make sure that I can deliver what is needed on time.
There were many screw-ups during my time at the CBC. People who killed the pre-interview conversation eventually flopped on air. I failed to give basic contact information to a guest that led to a off-air scramble to get a guest – all while I was at home asleep. My scripts were lame sometimes, I fumbled the mics, and sometimes no matter how hard I tried, I couldn’t inform myself on an issue well enough.
And I hate letting people down through these screw-ups.
But life goes on. We roll with it.
Things change and plans change – my life, with all the planning in the world, could derail at any moment by any one thing. And sometimes I can’t anticipate or plan for those things, but I just have to be ready to roll with it.
In the newsroom, I had to dump things or switch focuses at a moment’s notice. The news doesn’t really care how much research you’ve already done or how much you’ve put into your story already. But when you get that call to switch it up, you roll with it.
We try really hard to structure our lives around safety and constants.
I know that I definitely do I bank on safe things and tend to stay within the lines of my self-imposed comfort zone.
But I saw that once I tried to be a little more fearless, beautiful things could happen. I also saw that I wouldn’t spontaneously combust.
Case in point – despite the fact that it seems like I can’t shut up – one of the most difficult things about this job was going out to talk to people. I had to do that on a number of occasions and it freaked me out. I had two panic attacks the first time I got sent out with a mic and recorder.
Over time, I got better and more comfortable in my own skin. I had to roll with it, or else I would never learn and never do cool stuff like this:
So being a journalist for 4 months taught me a lot.
Of course there were the hard skills – better writing, better editing, how to use software and record better pieces that people would actually want to listen to.
But the lesson of just rolling with it and being okay with change was really brought to another level for me.
It challenged me to move beyond myself and try new things. To embrace spontaneity and not stress out over the ever inevitable change that will come with my life’s path.
At the end of the day, I am extremely grateful for the opportunity that was given to me through SFU’s Co-op program and the CBC’s Gzowski Internship program.
To all the folks at SFU, at CBC Toronto and Vancouver, my fellow interns, and every single person who gave me a bit of their time to share their story with me – thank you so much.
And guess what? I got hired back on a casual basis. So I’ll be kicking around, telling more stories and honing my skills even more. Who knows where this will lead?
The audio piece “Ice Cream” was produced for CBC’s The Early Edition as part of the summer “Get In Line” series. Shared with permission from the CBC.
Like I mentioned at the outset, there is so much more to unpack from this summer. I’m just getting started.