Although I’ve more or less been practicing journalism for more than a year now — I was accepted into the University of Washington’s program at the end of 2016 — I had, until interning with the Bothell/Kenmore and Kirkland Reporters, never considered myself a confident journalist.
Given enough time, I could efficiently write a story with which I’d be satisfied. But getting to a point of completion (which dependably also came with pitching, interviewing and photographing) usually ensured I temporarily be knocked out by a tidal wave of anxiety. In addition to unhealthily obsessing over sources not getting back to me within five minutes of an initial email, I’d also obsessively doubt my capabilities. I always felt like a 7-year-old playing dress-up as Walter Burns, convincing myself that no one had any confidence in me no matter how well prepared or thoughtful I was because of my lack of experience (and my age — I turn 21 in April).
I think a lot of this had to do with the fact that almost all my educational experiences have required me to write news stories, which was something I had, before applying to the major, never done.
I’d applied to the program because I wanted to — and still want to — become an arts writer, with a partiality toward film and music criticism. Before then, my experience had come in the form of reviews and opinion pieces about some of my favorite works. I never had to interview sources; I never had to do extensive research.
Much of this was self-inflicted. Since 2014, I have run a film criticism website, Peterson Reviews. I post one movie-related review or article at least once every day, six days per week. I’ve also written several arts pieces for the student-run publication Verge Campus and I’ve been employed as a staff writer and, more recently, an entertainment columnist, for the arts and leisure section of my school’s newspaper, The Daily.
By doing this, I had put myself in something of a bubble. I had adapted to strictly cranking out entertainment-centric pieces, dependent mostly on myself for motivation. So coming into the journalism program, I was a crusty marble block, waiting to be sculpted into something more multidimensional.
For the first couple weeks, that waiting seemed as though it was going to be indefinite. I struggled to write ledes. I had a hard time coming up with community-oriented news stories on my own. I wasn’t very good at taking pictures. The word “interview” sent a chill down my spine.
Fortunately, I’ve improved at these things as the opportunities have increased and the practice has continued. That, of course, can be attributed to the structure of the journalism program, which gets more challenging as it wears on.
But most of the rise in my confidence can be ascribed to the Kirkland and Bothell/Kenmore Reporters. Only weeks after taking on the position, I finally started feeling that ever elusive sense of certainty.
I think that primarily had to do with how I felt as though people had faith in me for the first time. The editor of these publications, Samantha Pak, didn’t look at me with the perhaps accidentally condescending eyes of an intimidating professor. She looked at me, and treated me, like a professional. Time and time again, she presented me with opportunities that at once challenged and exhilarated me and seemed to believe in what I could do.
During my time interning here, I have written about a variety of topics: city council meetings, concerts, student athletes, town hall gatherings and even a small acupuncture business. Because these topics were presented to me not with a sniff and a skeptical wondering of “can you do this?” but rather a positive “you can do this” attitude, a great portion of my self doubt vanished. I know I’m not perfect at this job, and I’m never totally at ease — that’s impossible. But I no longer feel like I’m masquerading as a journalist in the ways I did so many months ago.
Before taking on this temporary job, I constantly wondered if I would genuinely enjoy the occupation when practicing it in the “real” world, whatever that means. Now, I feel as though I can say, with conviction, that I love it. This experience is just what I needed to solidify that this career, whether rooted in entertainment or a small community, is worth pursuing. Even if the pay isn’t always great, even if stability isn’t exactly a given.
I remember at the beginning of quarter being slightly apprehensive about getting “paid” via a single class credit. I was also daunted by the reality that I’d have to drive back and forth between Kirkland and the University District three times every week.
But taking into consideration just what a thrilling experience these last few months have been, I’ve come to the conclusion that every gripe I initially had was completely excusable in the long run. I have had an amazing experience here and I find myself genuinely bummed when I think about not making the journey from UW to Kirkland on a regular basis. I’m going to miss Samantha, reporter Kailan Manandic and Redmond Reporter Andy Nystrom and everyone else I’ve met during my time here. Everybody has been so welcoming.
But I also figure this internship marks a new beginning and that’s exciting in itself.