The importance of being a local news reporter

By Molly Blanco, junior JLMC

My Greenlee 499A internship experience this summer with Harlan Newspapers was full of firsts. It was my first time physically working in a newsroom, my first internship and my first time living in a (really) small town.

I began my internship with Harlan Newspapers without ever having stepped foot in the newsroom. Harlan Newspapers is located in Harlan, Iowa, in the southwest corner of the state. The organization focuses on community journalism by reporting local and county news for the town’s population of just under 5,000 people.

I worked as a reporter for the newspaper (the paper’s only reporter, to be exact) and covered everything from city council meetings, profiles of community members, photo assignments and events. Any time there was a story to be told in Harlan, I wrote it. I worked closely with the managing editor of the publication to develop story ideas, find sources and ultimately bring my articles to fruition twice weekly. Working for a small, local newspaper completely changed my perspective on community journalism. I developed a new understanding of these newspapers’ roles in their communities and the importance of these organizations across the country.

My internship experience offered incredible hands-on experience in the news industry, especially because I was able to report about such a wide variety of topics. I gained new skills and improved existing ones while producing valuable work to display in my portfolio. The internship was incredibly rewarding and valuable, especially since it was my first time working in person with other journalists. The experience of interviewing a source in person or collaborating with colleagues was taken away by the pandemic, but I finally got the opportunity to experience journalism in person this summer.

The scholarship I received from the Greenlee School of Journalism and Mass Communication helped make my internship experience possible, especially because I had to move to Harlan for the summer. The scholarship allowed me to devote my full attention to my internship and focus on my work at the newspaper.

Editor’s note: Edited for length and clarity. Greenlee 499A internship scholarships support students who have a primary major in advertising, journalism and mass communication or public relations and are completing their required 400-hour internships. The application is available each spring.