Alissa Antilla ’20 Reports for the St. Paul Pioneer Press in St. Paul, Minnesota

The gravity of my internship at the St. Paul Pioneer Press didn’t hit me until my first day.

When I woke up in the morning and put on my blazer, it hit me with a slight punch in the arm, reminding me that I was going to be sitting in an office surrounded by other blazers all day.

When I sat in rush hour traffic with other blazers, it gave me a little push.

When I walked into 10 River Park Plaza, a skyscraper with the St. Paul skyline as its backdrop, pushed the elevator button for the 7th floor, walked into the waiting room, told the security guards I was an intern, got buzzed in, got told to move my car because it was parked in an executive space, moved my car, met people from the sales department, editorial board, photography section, even the editor-in-chief, got my own swipe so I wouldn’t have to deal with the security guards, found out all the other interns are the editor-in-chiefs of their massive school newspapers, got my own cubicle with my name on it with my own computer and WordPress account and login and email…it nearly knocked me over.

During my first week, I met with the editor-in-chief of the Pioneer Press (he was meeting one-on-one with all the interns). We talked about how a liberal arts education feeds into journalism; learning all sorts of things is important for journalism because that is exactly what journalists cover: all sorts of things. I know how to write and am learning about journalism through internships, so my psychology major is really just bolstering my journalistic skills.

We also talked about how psychology works well in tandem with journalism. We talked about the inherent bias that all reporters have, one that is impossible to overcome, and how to navigate that. Knowing so much about biases from my psychology classes proved to be so applicable in ways I could never have imagined.

My psychology major has also applied when conducting interviews, teaching me how to interact with different people. My articles are only as good as my sources, so when conducting an interview, I ask questions in ways that get my sources to open up. There are three kinds of interviewees: people who are very closed-off and shy, the kind of people who won’t really answer your question; people who answer your question well and in-depth, providing very good, insightful answers that were just what you were looking for; and people who talk about themselves (completely separate from the topic) for a straight hour without you ever asking a single question.

When I step into interviews, the first thing I do is assess my audience and adjust my actions accordingly. If they seem very closed-off and shy, I give them a lot of space to talk and ask questions more conversationally to help them feel more at ease and forget that it’s an interview. I’ll engage with what they say more and use more facial expressions to show my engagement and curiosity. For very, very chatty people, I am learning to be much more assertive and straightforward. It’s really hard for me, but I’m learning to cut them off or steer them more towards the topic.

One of the most rewarding parts of the job is the amount of people who read my articles. It baffles me every day. Some of my articles on Facebook will get 200 likes–that isn’t even everyone who reads it, but just those who push the ‘like’ button. And that’s just on Facebook. All my stories have been on the front cover page of the Lifestyle section, which is a very visible spot. One of my stories was even picked up by WCCO-TV and they mentioned my name on TV! You can see it here at the 1:44 mark: I’m super proud of the visibility I’ve gotten and it has really upped my confidence.

What is even more rewarding is the kinds of articles I write. I write human interest stories, so I am tasked with the tremendous responsibility of telling other people’s stories. These are stories that need to be heard and I’m so, so honored to be the one who gets to tell them. I have a lot of power in my hands–people give me the power to tell their stories and tell them truthfully and accurately. It’s a lot of pressure. However, I’ve gotten a thank you email for every single one my published articles. That’s the best feeling.

If you would like to read my articles, you can find them here:

Experiences like First Name’s are made possible by the Whitman Internship Grant, which provides funding for students to participate in unpaid internships at both for-profit and non-profit organizations. To learn how you could secure a Whitman Internship Grant or host a Whitman intern at your organization, click here or contact Assistant Director for Internship Programs Victoria Wolff

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