Reflecting back on my last eight weeks in the Roaring Fork Valley
Eight short weeks ago I began my internship here at the Glenwood Springs Post Independent as a sports reporter intern. I came into the internship with a good amount of experience as a journalist from my three years of schooling at Portland State University and other internships over the last two years.
I came into the newsroom that first day feeling nervous but determined to make the most of my next two months in the Roaring Fork Valley. Since I have been a competitive athlete for the majority of my life, I had some clear-cut goals from the very first day I walked through the Post Independent’s doors.
My first goal I wanted to fulfill was a more concrete understanding of what it is like to be a journalist. I wanted to know what the hours were like and how to put out stories on a tight deadline. I also wanted to understand how newsrooms track reader engagement. How do I truly know that my writing is reaching the audience I intend it to reach? In other words, I wanted to figure out if I truly wanted to pursue a career as a sports writer.
It wasn’t long into the internship that I got a true understanding of what it takes to be a journalist. I think my fellow colleague Ray Erku really summed it up well one day during some downtime while we both covered a local track meet.
In short, I remember him saying that being a journalist requires you to work odd hours, often on weekends, sometimes a ways away from home, but in the end it’s worth the commitment in order to tell that story and give it to the community.
Participate in The Longevity Project
The Longevity Project is an annual campaign to help educate readers about what it takes to live a long, fulfilling life in our valley. This year Kevin shares his story of hope and celebration of life with his presentation Cracked, Not Broken as we explore the critical and relevant topic of mental health.
In the weeks that followed Ray’s tidbit on being a reporter I saw firsthand the passion Ray and the rest of the newsroom put into their writing. I witnessed on many occasions how ingrained the newsroom staff was with their communities and how much they truly care about what is going on within it.
Yes, as reporters, their job is to produce stories that bring the paper business, but at the end of the day, I truly believe that all of them care about the community they, too, are a part of, and I know for a fact that isn’t always the case at every publication. When reporters take this level of care in their community, it tends to reflect in reader engagement. I quickly realized that I wanted to strive to be a reporter who puts stake into truly caring for the community I am reporting on, much like my colleagues at the Post Independent do.
Another one of my goals was to become a more well-rounded writer. I like to think my writing is decent, but at the same time I know every writer has ample room to tweak aspects of it in order to make it more enjoyable for their readers.
After eight weeks I feel like my writing is on a different level than it was when I started back in early June. It helped to write on a consistent basis with publishing on average four to five stories a week without having to worry about other obligations such as school. Writing is definitely a skill that gets better with practice.
A driving force of the improvement in my writing came in large part to Peter Baumann, the editor of the Post Independent. Peter acted like a coach, a role that I have been accustomed to associating with since I was very little. I was sufficient enough to not need large amounts of direct instruction from Peter, but the instruction he did give me in the form of edits or pointers on how to write a story truly drove my writing to that next level.
Peter challenged me to write ledes that hooked the reader to keep on reading, he gave me pointers on how to observe a scene and then translate that scene for the reader to experience as well. All these things and more I will take with me as I continue to grow as a writer.
One of my last goals was to get uncomfortable. Being a natural introvert, I can at times struggle to get out of my shell. This characteristic can prove challenging for a journalist who needs to go up to random people and get their thoughts on everything under the sun. During my eight weeks, I wanted to grow more comfortable talking to people even if deep down I may feel uncomfortable doing so.
The first few interviews I conducted were uncomfortable for sure. Here I was in an area I have little experience with, in a community I know little about. With time I found that a lot of my anxiety prior to these interviews was because I was afraid how I may sound to the people I am talking to. I wanted to sound put together and professional. I would write up a set of questions I wanted to ask, and I would be so focused on these questions that at times it would cause very boring dialogue.
However after my first few interviews I realized good interviews are just glorified conversations. From that moment on I still wrote up questions, but I followed them loosely as I engaged with the person in front of me. The result was a more robust interview that had quotes that truly helped to round out the story I was attempting to write. Beyond the quotes I also felt like I was growing closer to the people in the community I was writing about. I was developing relationships with people I could rely on as sources in the future.
Overall, my experience at the Post Independent was the best internship experience I have ever had. Not only did I get to grow as a young sports writer, but I got to write stories that I will probably look back fondly on for years to come.
I thoroughly enjoyed the opportunity to enjoy what the valley had to offer in terms of trails through my weekly trail exploration series. The finale was going to be Hanging Lake, but the unfortunate onslaught of rain and mud axed that from the agenda.
I also enjoyed reporting at the Colorado State Track and Field Championship meet, where I got to see the Coal Ridge Lady Titans put on a dominating performance to capture the school’s first class 3A title. It felt like I, too, was a tiny part of their history book title run.
I want to thank the newsroom and staff at the Post independent for being extremely welcoming since my first day. I want to also thank my parents and close friends for their never-ending support as I try to make my dream of being a successful sports writer a reality.
Lastly, thank you to the community that makes up the Roaring Fork Valley. You, too, welcomed me into the beautiful place you call home with open arms and allowed me to cover you for the last eight weeks.
The Roaring Fork Valley has imprinted itself on me the last few weeks, and I hope to be back to the valley sometime soon.
Cody Jones is a senior attending Portland State University in Portland, Oregon. He hopes to work somewhere in Colorado as a sports reporter after graduating this December.
Support Local Journalism
Support Local Journalism
Readers around Glenwood Springs and Garfield County make the Post Independent’s work possible. Your financial contribution supports our efforts to deliver quality, locally relevant journalism.
Now more than ever, your support is critical to help us keep our community informed about the evolving coronavirus pandemic and the impact it is having locally. Every contribution, however large or small, will make a difference.
Each donation will be used exclusively for the development and creation of increased news coverage.
Start a dialogue, stay on topic and be civil.
If you don't follow the rules, your comment may be deleted.
User Legend: Moderator Trusted User
Fires and floods have thrown up literal detours for navigating our valley over the past several summers. In the same way, health conditions, career shifts, family dynamics, economic uncertainty, political environments, natural disasters, or even…