The Inside Scoop

Alina Panek ’20

Alina Panek ‘20 is a communication major with a concentration in Narrative Journalism. In Fall 2018, the Chicago native interned for a semester with The Newark Advocate, a respected paper in nearby Newark, Ohio that provides the community of 175,000 with their only source of professional journalism on local news.

Within a small newsroom, Panek’s responsibilities as an intern were similar to a professional freshmen journalist. She learned alongside veteran journalists and she was even allowed to pitch and write her own stories.

Panek shares her experience.

As I pulled up to the driveway, Betty McCollough’s white hair was stark behind the screen door. She waved to me and Jessica Phelps — the professional photojournalist who was assisting me with an article I was writing for The Newark Advocate. I wasn’t familiar with the area, so we had a little bit of difficulty finding the McCullough’s home. Betty had given me a successful hint to use the black steer and calf statues as landmarks. She welcomed us into her home with joy and gave us a tour before the interview.

As Jessica and I sat on the floor of their living room, I learned that Betty and her husband Roland met in high school and have been married for 70 years. Their secret for longevity? To do everything together. Their interview gave me so much information that I wrote a longform feature piece for the front page of the paper. It ran on their anniversary, which falls on the day after Betty’s birthday. (They weren’t allowed to marry until she was 18.)

She told me it was one of the best presents that she had ever received.

It’s experiences like this that make me grateful to be in Central Ohio and in particular the Denison community. It was only through an internship with this community paper that I was able to meet community members like the McCulloughs — or the new chef at Newark Doubletree Hilton, Todd Goodwin, who is excited to spice up the community with his food. These people encourage me to keep working toward my goal of being a reporter with integrity.

“I learned quickly that you can’t please everyone and that it’s okay to make mistakes as long as you learn from them.”

Other great things about my internship experience:

My advisor and Narrative Journalism chair, Jack Shuler connected me with this opportunity. His help was invaluable in finding a stipend that funded my expenses and transportation for the internship.

I was able to work with hardworking and talented journalists. All the staff at the Newark Advocate were incredibly kind and generous to me. I felt like their peer and not just an intern — a perk of a small newsroom. Michaela Sumner and I bonded over our mutual hatred of morning and she helped me with interview questions and headlines. Kent Mallett showed me his ongoing projects and the complaint-filled community letters that are a part of being the only source of hyperlocal news.

I learned quickly that you can’t please everyone and that it’s okay to make mistakes as long as you learn from them.

This internship, surrounded by skilled, compassionate and helpful journalists, was the perfect introduction to what my future could possibly hold. The skills I learned as an intern at the Advocate strengthened my determination in all areas of my life to keep asking the hard questions, double — no, triple — check your work (and your interviewees names!) and to weigh your priorities.

December 22, 2019