Friday, June 26, 2009

Another week

Despite all of the challenges I am finally getting the hang of writing for them. This week I wrote two stories, one on Angola and the other on the new U.S. ambassador to Syria that I worked on with our deputy director. I actually had to write the one on Angola on Sunday because we received information on it on Friday but it was embargoed until Monday at midnight. The story was about a new Human Rights Watch report about the oil-rich region of Cabinda. I ended up doing a lot of research on the region on Friday and actually writing the story on Sunday so that it could be published Monday morning. It was fun writing the story and I got to learn more about different regions in Africa which was great, especially since I wasn't really aware of the situation in Cabinda.

Writing with our deputy director was good too, I was able to do all of the background on the issue and he did interviews. A lot of people are apparently in Syria so he couldn't get some of the interviews he wanted, but he got one or two which definitely added to the article. It's hard working with someone else because you have different ideas of how you want the story to go, but it is great getting his direct input as I'm writing and suggesting new things for me to research.

Overall it's been a good week and I am looking forward to see what I'll write about next week. I'm hoping that soon I'll be able to write about some of my passions if there is a slow week to raise awareness on these issues. But we'll see.

Thursday, June 18, 2009

Way too many statistics and trees

This week I have definitely gotten a lot more experience writing for IPS. On Monday I was assigned a story about growing more American chestnut trees because they take more carbon out of the atmosphere than other trees. It was not the most interesting story to write, especially because I basically hate science, but it was good to have the opportunity to get another byline. You can read it here.

I also worked on another story yesterday that was definitely a difficult subject, at least to work with because of the huge number of statistics that it involved. I had to write about the latest World Refugee Survey and relate it to previous year's survey. It was hard because my boss was the one who had written all of the previous stories so it was definitely intimidating to work on something he knew so well. But after sifting through all of the statistics and looking at his stories I think it went pretty well. So here is my next byline all about the world's refugee population. It is actually an interesting subject now that it's not all numbers. So enjoy and you will hear from me more later!

Friday, June 12, 2009

Another week of adjustment

I have learned that it is sometimes frustrating to write in the extremely specific way of IPS, but I'm slowly getting there. It's hard because we have to write it from strictly a Washington stand-point and not step on any of the toes of any of the international bureaus. This week I wrote an article on Zimbabwe's Prime Minister Morgan Tsvangirai visiting the White House today so that should be going up soon. I love writing articles with subjects that I'm passionate about, which is Africa, because it makes it so much more fun to work on and research. And since I already know a lot about the subject it's just easier to talk about it because you know the basic history and who the leader is and what is going on in that country.

I'm hoping next week that I'll continue to adjust to this different style of writing and that I'll continue to get another opportunity to write about Africa. It's a lot easier to write about Africa than an event about changing the energy grid and the military's use of energy, trust me.

Tuesday, June 9, 2009

International coverage

So as I continue to work for IPS the more I learn about their organization. While it's still hard writing these really long articles and providing a lot of context, it's great to have my article picked up by so many organizations. My Burundi article that I wrote last week was picked up by, which is a website I use for my own research because it's a great source of information about Africa. It was great seeing my article on their website and it was kind of a surreal experience.

On Monday I worked with my boss on an article about Iran's presidential elections. I went to an event Monday afternoon about the subject and the findings of a poll. Unfortunately the people did not talk much about their poll so that provided a lot of problems for me while working on the article. So because my boss wanted to write an article about it anyways we both worked on it. It was kind of frustrating to have to do but I learned a lot about the way he writes and the way he wants me to write for their organization.

We'll see what the rest of this week holds!

Friday, June 5, 2009

Lots of research, little credit

So I have written a total of four articles for IPS so far and every one of them has been very stressful. From calling potential sources to writing up an article that is appropriate for our kind of news agency there is always something to do when you have an assignment. My problem is inserting enough context, I'm used to writing short 600 word stories for class assignments and IPS wants a minimum of 800 words, which is tough for me. But it's been fun and I've been learning a lot from them.

It's also hard because there are so many bureaus of IPS and you don't know which bureau is covering what and what falls under you're jurisdiction. It's also difficult because you don't know what kinds of story they will want you to cover since they aren't a traditional news agency.

One of my main weaknesses that I am working on and becoming more confident with is interviews. I had to interview the president of the
Cuban-American National Foundation for an article I was working on with the head of the Washington bureau, and I was so nervous. But I just took a deep breath and called him and the interview went great. He was really funny and had a lot of great opinions on what we were working on.

It's also been a great opportunity because I am now their "Africa specialist" as they jokingly call me. I was in Zambia and I am studying Africa, but it's funny that it's my new label. I just wrote an
article on Burundi, which was the subject of a new report by Human Rights Watch. It wasn't very positive because it was all about the violence in the country, but I liked researching a country that is not in the news very often.

Well that's all from me until next week! Now I'm working on an article about Zimbabwe so I have a lot of work to do!

Thursday, June 4, 2009

The beginning of a wonderful opportunity

My name is Katie and I am a junior journalism major and international studies minor. During the spring semester I was looking for internships for the summer on AU Career Web and I came across a posting from an international news agency, Inter Press Service (IPS). I applied because I figured, hey what's the chance they'll call me back and I wouldn't mind staying in DC for the summer. But a week or so later they called and offered me a position for the summer! I researched the organization and found some of their stories on EBSCO for a paper I was doing on Sudan so I was really excited about this opportunity.

Unfortunately my first few days in DC didn't go so well, I couldn't get a hold of my supervisor and when I did they said they had to make sure they still needed me. I was so nervous that I stayed in DC for nothing, but a day later he called me back and said I needed to come in for an interview. So I looked up the address of their office and saw they were in the National Press Building. As a journalism major this was like a dream come true!

The day of my interview I was really nervous and I got there really early. I went up to where their offices were and just walked around the floor looking at all the agencies I could be working alongside in the near future and it felt amazing. When I walked into the office I was shocked at how small the room was, there were three desks crammed into a room with tons of filing cabinets and books and newspaper clippings were everywhere. But I knew that when I became a journalist, this was how my office would look too.

My interview was going really well, I talked to my supervisor and the director of the Washington, DC bureau of IPS and then they asked me what year I was at AU. When I said I was a junior the director looked at me and said that they don't hire undergrads, but they were willing to give me a test. Next thing I knew I was handed a pile of research, a report from Human Rights Watch about Congo, and articles about the UN's response and I was told to send them a story by the next day at 5 p.m. They also told me I needed to call Human Rights Watch to get a reaction about what was being done in light of their report.

As soon as I got home I started reading and working on my article. I wrote until midnight that night and then finally went to bed with a plan to call Human Rights Watch the next morning. But when the next day came and I called Human Rights Watch no one was answering their phones, either in New York or Washington so I was panicked. I finished my article and sent it in to IPS explaining that there was no one in the Human Rights Watch office. I called to confirm that my supervisor got it and he instantly said, I've read some of it and I like it, it's really well-written. Relief does not even describe what I felt.

The next day I was offered the internship and began my new job as a reporter for IPS. I could not even wait to start!

For this blog I'll tell you about what I do for IPS and all about covering stories for an international news organization. It's a lot of fun but it definitely has it's moments!