Intern days

I’m not going to lie — I feel a little silly writing this.

Since I stopped working in the city in August 2009, I haven’t spent any substantial amount of time in St. Albert besides the occasional visit when I lived in Edmonton last summer for four months and would drive over to St. A for an event or if I needed to wash my car. (Yes, I know Edmonton has car washes. But for me, self-serve, do-it-yourself car washes have to be stupid-proof, and there’s one that meets that criteria on Green Grove Road, just off St. Albert Trail).

And so while I only spent four months working at Saint City News as an intern, it still breaks my heart a little to hear that the paper will close its doors for good at the end of this month.

The university program I graduated from requires all second-years to write for a community newspaper, the Calgary Journal, so I had been published before, but this was my first time working for a “real” newspaper.

I don’t know if I’m just super easy to impress, but it was a really good internship. I had some friends who, on their internships, were pretty much handed the keys and asked to put out the paper by themselves for a week or three. (Which, admittedly, while scary, is probably an OK way to learn too, though the lack of feedback would have bothered me a bit.) Other friends have interesting stories, to say the least, that would probably make me swear off journalism for some time.

I, however, got what I call “intern benefits.” I was treated like any other person in the newsroom — I was assigned a list of stories each week, I worked weekend rotations with everyone else, I had some pages to lay out each week, and 40 pages of copy landed on my desk each Thursday for the first copy-editing go-round. But at the same time, as long as it didn’t conflict with anything else I was working on, I was allowed to shadow the other reporter on City Hall and court cases, something I had little — read: barely any — experience with, eventually working my way up to doing a few of my own City Hall stories. As long as it wasn’t near deadline, I could ask any questions I wanted about CP style, ethics and general journalism, and someone could usually give me five minutes of their time. And the editor also put up with my attempts at sports coverage when the sports reporter went on vacation.

I’m pretty sure that’s where my love for copy-editing was born — I still remember the fear the first time 40 pages of copy landed on my desk. I could barely remember the copy-editing marks we’d been briefly introduced to in first year, now they’re second nature.

It’s also where my poor sense of direction was identified. I nearly went back to Edmonton one day because I forgot where I was heading and almost turned south on the highway (which doesn’t have many easy turnaround points) because I couldn’t figure out which direction I was facing. And when I was worried about getting lost going to the Edmonton Humane Society, the editor jokingly (I think) told me not to call him unless I was in Mill Woods (very south of Edmonton, while the humane society is in the north part of Edmonton, just south of St. A).

When I texted a friend to tell him the paper was closing, I think he recognized I might possibly have a bias and asked if the other paper in town was any good. I seem to think they’re in a different circulation category than Saint City, but nevertheless, each paper has won its fair share of awards. It’s also something that my instructors recognized when I went back to school — as an editor for the Calgary Journal in third year, one second year was getting frustrated with the layout I was working with him on, and suggested we call the production instructor over. The photo instructor heard the exchange, and suggested to S. that he let me play with the page for a bit, I’d probably learned a good thing or two after working at Saint City for the summer.

It’s not like there weren’t days when I didn’t want to get out of bed, but for the most part, it’s a really good paper, and I learned so so much — even though it was two years ago, I still refer to things I learned there, which people must be tired of, and which is why it breaks my heart a little bit. And one more thing I learned: it wasn’t so much the case when I was an editor at the Reflector, but ask the editors who worked with me as an EIC at the Journal — I’m still on quite the warpath against dog-legged columns (when the column is made smaller partway down the page by an ad or other element that juts into the column).

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