By Kate Winkle
During this internship, I had freedom to develop skills and pursue my own projects. After getting used to covering Washington, I decided I wanted to develop a big project. I started at the beginning of July, and the four-part series landed on the website Wednesday.
The project I affectionately termed the “D.C. Jobs” series was my first solo, long-form, multimedia endeavor. To say I learned a lot would be an understatement, so these are a few tips I picked up about the process.
1. Develop an idea
I knew almost as soon as I arrived in Washington that I wanted to work on a summer project. One of my biggest struggles was figuring out what it should be, because it had to meet a few criteria: it must be reportable, it must be feasible, it must be interesting. The last point is the most important: selecting a topic of interest to an audience and to the reporter, who often must work months or years before a project is complete.
I discussed ideas with friends, family, my editor and co-workers to visualize my end goal and choose an idea: a series about jobs in Washington, complete with an article, photos and video.
2. Articulate the project
I needed to be able to explain my project in one or two sentences. Not only did this keep me on track, but it also allowed me to explain my goals to media representatives and sources. At first it was difficult to cold-call people at the places I wanted to include, and I may have rambled about my project a bit too much. With practice, though, I developed a succinct explanation that later served as the project’s online introduction: This story is part of a four-part series about unique jobs in Washington. Some jobs are necessary for the city to functionor require a special set of skills, but all are cogs in the wheel that makes Washington tick.
3. Create a timeline
I had about a month and a half to pull this project together, and adding multimedia elements would increase the time I’d need to work, so I decided to focus on three or four jobs. I set generous deadlines for scheduling interviews, gathering the raw materials and writing and editing the final piece. My last deadline, however, couldn’t move. I had to finish the project before the internship ended Aug. 15.
4. Have a Plan B
Ideally, I would have set up job shadowing and interviews by the second week in July. What I didn’t account for was the busyness that comes with the weekend of the Fourth of July in D.C. Media representatives were busy planning other things; my project, in their eyes, could wait. Other people were on vacation or out of the office, which led one media representative to politely decline to participate.
I felt defeated for a while, working on daily stories and checking in with media relations people on the side. I reached out to other jobs I could profile, feeling the pressure of my timeline.
Finally, responses trickled in as the frenzy of summer events slowed. I found six people representing four different jobs to shadow, video and photograph. I created a system of producing the product: half a day of gathering information, interviews, video and photo; a day and a half of writing; a day for editing video; half a day for creating a slideshow. It came together just as the last week of the internship was upon me.
5. Share the project
I can’t accurately describe the relief and elation of uploading everything to the website. I grinned while walking back to my office after a final proofread with my editor.
But, my work was not done. I tweeted stories out on the @SHFWireInterns Twitter account and my personal one, tagging the organizations with whom I’d worked in the tweets. I shared a barrage of links to Facebook. I texted friends and family. I also emailed links to and thanked all my sources and media representatives who helped me.
With my project finally finished, I took a deep breath, relaxed a bit and admired the product.