From the suburbs to small-town Iowa: Learning the importance of local journalism

Annelise Wells interviews a woman in front of a vintage stove.
Annelise Wells interviews a source at Nathaniel Hamlin Park in Audubon, Iowa. Photo courtesy of Wells

By Annelise Wells

Year in School: junior

Major: journalism and mass communication, international studies

Internship: Manatt Family Western Iowa Journalism Fellow, Carroll Times Herald, Carroll, Iowa

The population of my hometown of Naperville, Illinois, is over 147,000 people, and the population of Carroll, Iowa is just under 10,000 people.

So when I researched the Carroll Times Herald newspaper before my interview, I truly had no idea where the town even was. My knowledge of Iowa geography extended to where Ames and Des Moines were, and that’s about it.

To add to my nerves even more, the Carroll Times Herald was the first internship I ever interviewed for. No pressure at all.

While speaking with three members of the staff, including the co-owner, does sound scary on paper, the interview ended up being conversational, lively and not frightening at all.

They asked me questions about my academic reporting, and I couldn’t help but passionately discuss the importance of dean searches and differential tuition on Iowa State’s campus. They genuinely seemed interested as I spoke about how my job as Academics Editor at the Iowa State Daily has taught me invaluable life lessons, even if it seems boring.

On assignment for the Carroll Times Herald, Annelise Wells does reporting at Nathaniel Hamlin Park in Audubon, Iowa. Photo courtesy of Wells

I walked out of the interview with a huge smile on my face. I couldn’t stop thinking that the Carroll Times Herald would be an awesome place to intern, but I didn’t get my hopes too high as I didn’t have any internship experience.

But just as I was about to head home for Thanksgiving break, I got a call from a number that I didn’t recognize. I almost declined until I saw it was coming from Carroll, Iowa. The editor offered me an internship for the summer, and the first thought I had was that I was overwhelmed with excitement. But my second thought I had was that I didn’t know the first thing about reporting in small towns.

Fast forward to now, and I have learned the saying that in small towns, “everybody knows everybody,” is true in the best way possible. The paper is a staple in town, with events, special occasions, obituaries, local news and sports filling the pages. I can simply say I am from the “Carroll Paper” on the phone and everyone knows where I am calling from.

The paper doesn’t just bring Carroll together, but surrounding communities on all sorts of different issues. I have gotten to cover emergency drills, speak with passionate local business owners and even watch a live surgery.

Annelise Wells (right) and a fellow intern pose with Albert the Bull in Audubon, Iowa. Photo courtesy of Wells

No two days are ever the same, and that’s the best part of my job. I spend so much time out of the office, driving to nearby towns or at events, speaking with people who truly love the community they live in.

So many people I interview were born in the area, left for college or other jobs, but eventually found their way back, and I can definitely see why.

Although obviously from out of town, every person I have met in Carroll has welcomed me with open arms. The staff has taken the other fellow and me under their wings, and I could not be more grateful. I’ve found friends in my coworkers and a place to call home that is six hours away from my family. Not to mention most places are just a song or two car ride away and the sunsets are fantastic.

At the beginning of summer, I was not even sure how moving to Carroll would go. But now being halfway done, I am already dreading having to leave.

Vote for this blog post in Round 1 of the 2019 Greenlee Summer Intern Blogging Competition. Voting closes at 11:59 p.m. CST on July 15. The author of the post that receives the most votes will receive the $50 Amazon gift card.