On my very first day, minutes after I had set up my work e-mail, I received an assignment from one of the top editors of the magazine I work for. This editor wanted me to come up with a list of salaries from the Portland metropolitan area, and also wanted me to come up with original, reliable sources for the data – no second-hand information allowed. Other than that, the assignment was basically open-ended. It was up to me to use my best judgment in deciding which salaries to choose to research, and it was entirely up to me to figure out my sources.
I’ve spent years as an editor and reporter for various collegiate publications. I’ve personally delved deeply into sensitive issues, and I’ve assigned reporters to do the same. By all rights, I should have had no reservations about doing something like this.
But you know what? I was actually pretty nervous.
After all, having one of the leaders of a prestigious publication personally hand me a research-intensive assignment on my first day wasn’t exactly what I was expecting. Plus, this was something that was going into the magazine, with my name on it, and was going to be viewed (and scrutinized) by people throughout the entire Portland metropolitan area and beyond. While working for outlets like Ethos or the Emerald, my work would be seen by maybe a third of the UO campus, or half of it if I was really lucky. But this piece? This piece, when it publishes, will be seen by 50,000+ people. And if something in my reporting is wrong, then the very good reputation of my publication will noticeably suffer.
Despite all my previous experience, this was a whole different ballgame.
But I am also immensely glad that I was assigned this story. I buckled down and spent hours sifting through governmental databases, NPO IRS forms, and corporate budget reports. I checked in regularly with my direct editor, and stayed on track. Now, I can take on anything else this internship throws at me. I was thrown in, and I was forced to swim.
– Keegan Clements-Housser