It's time to ramble on…

The thoughts of a young journalist in southeastern Michigan

My time at the Grand Rapids Press: Covering the president, Michigan politics and meeting some incredible people

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This week, I wrapped up my first full-time internship at the Grand Rapids Press. The last 14 weeks have proved to be nothing but a rollercoaster.

The Grand Rapids Press building, located at Michigan and Monroe Streets NW in Grand be nothing but a rollercoaster.

Working on the politics desk during an off-year election season allowed me to explore deeper into the world of politics and political reporting. On my first day of work, I met now-Michigan GOP gubernatorial candidate Rick Snyder during a town hall meeting in May. I’ve been able to cover a congressional debate, report on site from the county clerk’s office on Election Night, as well as the campaign strategy of right-to-work. And of course, there’s been the opportunity to cover this guy.

With a more focused section of the newsroom dedicated to politics, it allowed me to receive stories that required more detail. Using what knowledge I acquired from studying politics in college, including legal jargon and campaign strategies, the ability to learn firsthand about politics, another area I’m passionate about, was an added bonus.

Overall, though, internships are supposed to be a learning experience (at least that’s what every professor I ever had told me). So what did I learn?

Besides working on the political desk, the biggest benefit has been the last two weeks, where I replaced another intern on the night cops shift. Working from 3-11 p.m. covering police activity was not a strong suit of mine four months ago, especially coming from such a sleepy town like Mount Pleasant (at least it was before I graduated). Preferring administrative reporting over police reporting left me vulnerable to a skill set that the professional world craves and yearns for. It’s safe to say police reporting is one of the biggest forces at the Press; I see plenty of space dedicated to the local police and fire happenings in the city, and seems to be one of the biggest forces in readership.

With working nights and covering the happenings of the police scanner, I’ve been able to pick up on accidents and other mischief police are reporting in to their dispatchers, and can sometimes write a short story of 2-4 inches just based off the jabber on the scanner.

The size of Grand Rapids was a huge wakeup call for me. Reporting in town of 25,000 like Mount Pleasant was nothing compared to reporting on a metropolitan area consisting of almost 1 million. So much more activity is taking place here, and early on, I got lost in the shuffle. I’ve now gotten to the point where I can maneuver this city’s streets pretty effectively.

The best part has been getting to know and understand life in west Michigan. I never spent a lot of time in Grand Rapids, so this was a first. I did have to explain to a lot of people that I was new to town and didn’t understand a lot about most of the happenings, and people were more than happy to explain things out. Meeting some of the people I wrote about was incredible, as I got to see a (nearly) 100-year old Puerto Rican lady celebrate her birthday, I got the rundown on how the Gilda’s Club and Ronald McDonald houses work and saw a global family reunion 10 years in the making. To experience some of those types of human interest is unexplainable and worth sharing with the world. Even speaking to former Lt. Governor Dick Posthumus shortly after his wife died in order to tell her story was rewarding and one of the most difficult interviews I’ve ever done. Telling regular people’s stories gets back to journalism’s roots, and shouldn’t be forgotten. This summer was a good reminder of that point.

Personally, I’ve enjoyed my time in Grand Rapids and the western Michigan area. It’s an area I haven’t had a lot of experience with in recent years, and it’s been great being able to visit some interesting places, including

The Grand River, as seen from the Bridge Street bridge. I drove over it every day to get to the Press.

Muskegon, Grand Haven, Newaygo and Holland. Being nearby to Lake Michigan has been a plus, and immersing myself in the west Michigan culture as a self-proclaimed “Detroiter” has shown me what this side of the state can offer.

Up next: I begin as a reporting intern at the Bay City Times on Aug. 31, three days after finishing at the Press. It’s going to be a radically different experience, as the Times is as  much smaller paper, only printing three days a week with a joint edition with the Saginaw News, and is located in a much smaller town than Grand Rapids (To compare, Grand Rapids has just under 198,000; Bay City has just under 37,000).  I’m looking forward to change, and will document my opening comparisons shortly after starting.


Written by David Veselenak

August 30, 2010 at 12:34 am

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