ten best!: Reasons to be a YES! Weekly intern
On Nov. 5, I drove to Greensboro for an interview with Brian Clarey. The office was nearly empty, the consequence, I learned, of a frantic late-night election issue. Clarey wasn’t there and, discouraged, I drove home. The editor called me back on November 6 to apologize and offer me an internship. He said if I was willing to work for free, then he would put my articles in YES! Weekly. I accepted right away. It was a good deal for me and the paper, and it has remained so for six months. But one cannot be an intern forever, and so I am leaving after this issue, back to college, and on to the world of paid jobs. And YES! Weekly needs a new intern.
On Nov. 6, after offering me an internship, Clarey gave me my first assignment, a Ten Best article, due on Nov. 7. It was a good way to weed out the pretenders, forcing me to actually write something, for print, for tomorrow. I sat down and brainstormed until I came up with a topic, “Ten best innovations that don’t impress me.” I spent the next eight hours moving from TV to computer, bed to computer, ESPN.com to Microsoft Word, painfully realizing that I wouldn’t finish until I cut the crap and did the work.
Good journalists, Clarey told me, have ideas for stories. And yet there I was, driving to Greensboro for my first editorial meeting, unable to think of a thing. What did I know that was newsworthy? What opinions did I have that were interesting? Truth is, I was uninformed and uninterested. I had to start reading the newspaper, talking to people and listening to people and paying attention to the world around me.
In gift certificates. If I had a dollar for every time I ate for free at Finnegan’s Wake, then I would have some actual money. A free meal, however, is not too shabby. YES! Weekly provides its employees with gift cards from restaurants that trade ads for gift cards, which seem to be limited to Finnegan’s Wake, Wild Wing CafÃ© and Foothills Brewery. I was also compensated with pens and reporter pads, free entry to events that I covered — including concerts, cooking school and an airplane ride — and even managed to finagle money for a tank of gas.
Google “Gus Lubin” and you will find dozens of articles written by me for YES! Weekly. Every article I wrote is preserved on the internet for fame, posterity and any time I need clippings. Moreover, you will find my reviews quoted on band websites, and even mentioned on a few blogs. And off the internet, in real life, there are several people in Winston-Salem who know and recognize me as a reporter. Journalism is not glamorous, but it brings an inevitable, low-level fame, even to an intern.
It’s a good party trick to be able to list what’s happening in the Triad on any day of the week. Monday? There’s a great new play at the School of the Arts. Thursday? Horse and pony show in Kernersville. Saturday? An Icelandic DJ at Greene Street. I am as well informed as anyone short of Smitty (www. smittysnotes.com). That’s not to say I attend many of the events. I look at BeThere as an exercise in research and writing. It used to take me several hours, and now I’ve got it down to 90 minutes.
Reviews are fun. Your prerogative for the week is to go to a concert or restaurant and be observant enough that you can write a 750-word review. Being observant is not easy, and it involves taking notes and asking questions. Show up early to a concert. Talk to the band and get them to say something interesting. Pay attention to the music. Or, at a restaurant, make conversation with the waiter. Take a few quick photos of the food. Eat thoughtfully. And then you get home and hope you have enough to write a story.
Write cover stories
The ultimate challenge for any reporter at YES! Weekly is the cover story: at least 2,500 words, with photos and a graphic on the cover, these articles have to be good. The three that I wrote each constituted a month-long adventure into an unknown region of the world around me. In December, I learned the jargon of the housing crisis, interviewed feuding developers and defensive builders and explored abandoned developments. In February, I investigated the highly-guarded affairs of local daily newspapers. And in April, I learned about military recruiting and got to know some teen recruits. “A cover story,” as Clarey says and I like to believe, “is literature.”
Learn from the best
Everyone in the small office of YES! Weekly is a character and most are surprisingly good at their jobs. They put together a newspaper every week that contains in-depth local news articles, tons of entertainment coverage and local listings; and it has a growing number of readers and makes money. Clarey is smart, glib and cynical, in person and in print. Jordan Green comes right out of All the President’s Men, an investigative journalist who does things like search public records at the courthouse — and he writes music review too. A beginning journalist could learn a lot by getting to know the staff of the free newspaper.
You may wonder who would want to be a journalist, after reading articles — some in our very own pages — about rampant layoffs, consolidations and other disasters in the newspaper business. Well, someone has to do it. Seriously. There are stories everywhere begging to be told; and bloggers can’t do it alone; nor can the New York Times. No one knows where or how, but journalists will survive in old and new ways. As an intern at YES! Weekly, you can experiment with your own style of writing. And who knows? You may help define the future of journalism and even, one day, get paid.