My first assignment for the St. Louis Review was a grade school principal’s retirement party. The second was a first-grade pizza party. The last was Ferguson, on the 1-year anniversary of Michael Brown’s death.
What happened in between? I learned to jump.
The first week on the job, I looked queasily down into the “professional world” pool and saw all the reasons I shouldn’t dive in—excuses as laughable as having to wear my mom’s business clothes or sitting in rush hour traffic. I touched my toe to the water and got cold feet.
The second week, my co-intern Weston arrived. On our first “Team Intern” assignment to the aforementioned pizza party, he said he was throwing himself into our internship and showed he meant it on that and subsequent assignments, getting closer to subjects than I ever would, asking candid questions of sources I was nervous to approach. It was time to jump.
Team Intern’s first big story was the Encounter Conference, which the Review wasn’t going to cover this year. It was assigned a back page, but Weston and I jumped in, working until midnight the first day and putting in a twelve-hour day the second. We high-fived in the rain outside the convention center: “Team Intern!” Weston’s photo made the front page, with a teaser to my story.
After that, we were on a roll, getting covered in mud at Kenrick-Glennon Days and sweat at YSP, Project Life and Planned Parenthood and filing pages on pages of interviews for our first Living Our Faith story on youth groups, where Weston swung from a pole to get one of his signature acrobatic shots.
The other reporters, especially stalwart Joe Kenny, encouraged us to pursue zany stories like the pink flamingo ministry, and we each refined our skills, with Teak and Lisa critiquing Weston’s photos and “Luke” helping me write more confidently and creatively. Jennifer let us try magazine stories, and Lisa even let us help produce a video that the office pitched to Gannett. With their encouragement, we jumped fearlessly into new media and new ways of approaching our craft.
Team Intern landed another Living Our Faith story and another front page (plus some individually), as well as winning the “Jeep Award” for good work. We were part of the Ferguson coverage team, and Teak wrote a blog about it.
I can’t speak for Weston, but the staff also encouraged me to jump in other ways. Their devotion to the faith and membership in tertiary and lay orders inspired me to dive into vocational discernment more deeply than ever before. Their media mentorship gave me the confidence to leap into a documentary competition. Their friendship and prayers, I know, will follow me as I fly into a semester in Switzerland next week.
All I can really say to the staff, to each person I met, and to the God I encountered through you all is “Thank You.”
Colleen Dulle was an intern with the St. Louis Review during the summer of 2015. She is a journalism student at Loyola University in New Orleans. You can follow her on twitter @ColleenDulle.