Next up on the Internview docket is Emily Garnett. A fellow Pennsylvania native, Emily and I were in quite a few classes together, including a Field Reporting class as well as an Investigative Reporting class.
Emily did some fabulous work at the Columbia Missourian last fall, with an emphasis on agriculture reporting. Enjoy:
SR: Where are you working?
EG: DTN/The Progressive Farmer, based in Omaha, Neb. The Progressive Farmer is a monthly print magazine based down in Alabama, but it’s owned by Telvent DTN, a markets-weather-and-ag service that publishes an online agricultural site that produces a lot of ag-based data and news for hundreds of thousands of farmers and ranchers. I mostly do daily online news for DTN, but I write for the magazine, too.
SR: What was your experience prior to this internship?
EG: I didn’t have any journalism experience beyond my semester reporting at the Columbia Missourian, but I worked on different farms and ranches around the country for two years after college, so I had some knowledge of agriculture.
SR: How did you get the internship?
EG: The amazing Barbara Willis, assistant director of Career Services at MU, included the internship opening in one of her many e-mails to J-school students. My family has subscribed to Progressive Farmer for years, and I’m studying to be an agricultural journalist, so I jumped on it and sent my resume and clips to an editor. That same editor came to Mizzou, interviewed me, and offered me the spot a month later.
SR: What is your title and what do you actually do?
EG: I’m an “editorial news intern,” but I function as a general assignment reporter, and that’s how everyone treats me, which is incredibly refreshing.
SR: What are the three biggest things you’ve learned at your internship?
EG: Ohhhh, just three? Ok:
- Own a good pair of boots and don’t hesitate to use them (or ask to use them). DTN is a national ag publication, so I do a lot of reporting from my desk on the phone, but they’ve been great about letting me travel for stories when I ask. And without a doubt, the stories that I pulled out my old cattle-working boots for and tromped around the floodplains of the Missouri river or through a cornfield in Kansas were the most rewarding ones.
- Verify, verify, verify. This is especially important in agriculture, where coffee shop talk often becomes passed down as fact in farming and ranching communities (something I witnessed and participated in first hand!). I’ve learned never to be embarrassed or feel snooty when asking someone to tell you how they know something.
- Not everyone is going to like you. Get over it. This one is a work in progress for me. I’ve been assigned to a lot of controversial stories this summer, which is both awesome and exhausting. I nearly made myself ill one weekend stressing about how to write a story on a particularly divisive issue. Finally I just sat down, wrote it as honestly and accurately as I could, and called it a day. I keep telling myself that if I try to make sure everyone likes a story on a controversial issue, I won’t be doing it properly. But that’s going to continue to be a hard one.
SR: What’s the favorite story or stories you worked on and why?
EG: Ha, probably the one I made myself ill over! It’s an ongoing story, but essentially the Army Corps of Engineers is fighting an agricultural outcry against their attempt to dump sediment they dredged up for an environmental project into the Missouri river. I traveled down to the Big Muddy for a media boat tour hosted by the Corps. They even gave me a camera, which was nerve wracking. After that I drove north and talked to two farmers with a different perspective, to put it politely. Then I went home, fretted and pulled my hair out, and finally wrote this story. It was a tough one, but I liked it and felt like I really earned the 1200 words DTN allowed me to use!
SR: What would you tell your previous self at the beginning of the internship?
EG: Get on social media, you twit. I really need to cave in and start using Twitter—the leads, contacts, and story ideas from it are endless. Oh, and learn your way around a camera while you’re at it.
SR: What’s your least favorite thing about your internship?
EG: The fact that it’s temporary. There are so many things I want to tackle, but I’m leaving after the first week of August, so I’ve had to rein myself in.
SR: What are the biggest things you’ll take away to the next job/internship?
EG: I love working as an ag reporter and I think I’ll be happy to make a career of it. That’s enormously relieving, because applying to journalism school was a huge, uncertain step for me.
SR: What’s your ideal job upon graduating?
EG: Working at an ag publication, as a reporter. So, basically, what I’m doing now, but with a real salary and health insurance!
SR: What’s your dream job?
EG: Eventually, I’d love to write about agriculture for a mainstream publication, like a city newspaper or national magazine. I like writing for farmers and ranchers, but the people who really need to know more about agriculture aren’t reading ag publications. But I have to earn my ag writing chops first. I’d say Georgina Gustin—St. Louis Post-Dispatch’s really excellent ag and food reporter—has my dream job!
SR: When you finish your internship, what’s next?
EG: Another year of school, ho hum. Then the job search!
SR: This Internview is complete, and I must say it’s another good one.. Thanks so much to Emily Garnett who graciously volunteered to be interviewed. The next Internview is TBD.