Published here and there, an internship that spread my work nationwide

By: Jay Waagmeester, senior, journalism and mass communication

My summer at the Iowa Capital Dispatch sharpened skills I learned at Iowa State and helped me realize the skills I never knew I needed.

I spent the summer keeping up with Iowa’s congressional delegates, reporting on the governor’s office, following the presidential campaign trail and more.

On a day-to-day basis, I was responsible for writing a story either assigned by my editor or an idea that I pitched. I occasionally collected data for other reporters’ stories, and I helped put together the outlet’s Saturday newsletter each week.

My topics ranged from following the state’s government reorganization, covering a school board meeting, following a water quality concern, following congressional delegates and more.

The range of my articles would not have been possible without a slew of struggles, though. I had to learn how to effectively communicate with my coworkers, how to manage time, including piecing together an article on a tight deadline, how to capture a photo to tell the story of an event and more.

The most rewarding part of my internship was supporting local newsrooms. Last summer, I worked for my hometown newspaper, a small newsroom with two full-time reporters. Newsrooms in Iowa that may struggle to fill their paper due to a lack of reporters or funding often picked up my stories, which was a win-win for me and the paper.

I got to tell stories that Iowans want to read, and the issues I covered and followed informed Iowans about Iowa news. Some of my best exposure came not when I was following a presidential candidate alongside 30 other reporters, but when I was the only one sitting in on a meeting.

However, my internship did allow me to work alongside several veteran journalists, including those I grew up reading and watching. I was often standing next to journalists from America’s most well-known outlets, including NBC, the Washington Post, AP and ABC.

Even though I was employed by a small, non-profit newsroom, it is part of a national network of sister organizations. The reporting I did in Iowa found its way to the national level. My stories were often shared to our sister outlets, so my work traveled from Louisiana to Nevada to Rhode Island and several states in between.

Outlets from outside our network picked up my work, too. My stories were published in the Des Moines Register, the Cedar Rapids Gazette, the Quad City Times, the Sioux City Journal and more outlets, giving even more exposure to my name and work as a journalist.

I was able to sharpen my reporting skills by writing every day and by being edited by experienced journalists. I published over 60 articles during my summer, and throughout the process I had the opportunity to network with journalists from numerous outlets. I also had my work reviewed, approved and posted by editors at other outlets, which only helps my case for a job after graduation.

Iowa is the perfect place to get experience in political journalism, and I would recommend an internship at the Iowa Capital Dispatch for anyone interested in experiencing what political journalism is all about.

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.