Journalism internship battle: final round KO

After spending quite a lot of my time in the editing room, one gets to develop small habits.

There is the morning coffee, the daily glance at the concurrent paper, the exhausting sexist jokes of the sport editor, the regular melody of my inbox each time a new dispatch comes in and the constant need to move round the cars in the –way too small- car park when someone goes off reporting (an interesting little detail which illustrates the lack of investment of the locally distributed paper in accordance to the decrease in readership).

Yet, despite this settling routine, I remained alert and permanently seeking for potential new stories.

It was the end of August. Summery topics were not going to sell anymore, but as the new school year hadn’t started yet, it was still too early to bombard the readers with studious subjects.

The weekly meeting was particularly tedious that week.  The editors were hesitating about the line to give to their sections, complaining about the lack of “going on”, and finally deciding on a six columns article about the transfer of a canteen in the neighbouring town resulting in a rise in costs and environmental impact.

As my turn came round, I shyly proposed a feature article on the prostitution networks which, set up about ten years ago in the local (but huge) forest, are not only highly visible but have been recently reinforcing their presence along the roads.

The editor looked at me with wide eyes. The others, who already knew about the idea, stared at him in support to my demand. The sexist sport journalist could not help himself to throw in a dirty joke to ease the atmosphere.

I was asked to develop my proposal: line of the article, length, sources and so on. I told him I had already interviewed the head of the local police about it. Indeed, the previous morning, I went to try and pull out of the policemen as much information as possible. (Highlight of the interview “You can’t even imagine to what extend my hands are tied” C.M, Head of the local police).

Silence. Looks. Discussion. “How much space do you need ?”. 1 Page. “Mmhh, not sure that will be enough”. Ok. 2 Pages. Nod in agreement…. YESSSSSSSSSS !!

“What do we have for the front cover ? ““What about the prostitution piece ?”“Do you feel you can do the front cover Chloe ?” ….

All pairs of eyes fixed on me waiting for an answer. There was really nothing else suited for that week’s front page. Inside I shivered but the last thing I wanted was to show that I was getting nervously excited about it all. I sat up straight: “I think I am, Yes.”“Perfect. Good luck to you all then.” The editor gave me a last look and gave something which looked like a smile. All stood up; the meeting was over.

In order to have the greater picture possible of the current prostitution situation, I was decided to interview some of the girls standing along the roads and I had planned to go that afternoon with the veteran journalist of the team, a hard-headed woman; they wouldn’t let me go alone.

In the car, we agreed on a plan of attack to manage to take a picture of the prostitutes, indispensable material for the front cover. The picture was later blurred according to privacy laws and for the sake of the girls’ security.

The plan was: I was to get out of the car and walk towards them thus distracting them and enabling my colleague, who would have stayed in the car, to take a picture without them noticing. The option of asking for their permission was rejected as close to a 100% refusal.

I was on a high commando mission. Failure was not an option. I wanted that front cover too much to withdraw. Crossing the road, I approached the two girls sitting on the forest barrier.

They accepted to talk to me. Surprisingly they were quite straight forwards although I had the feeling they were giving me ready-made answers.

Our conversation came to an end when a car with tinted windows, obviously a client, stopped a few metres away from us. I understood it was time for me to go and let them get along with their work. The interview was a success and most of all we had photos !

Back to the office I scribbled down all the information I had managed to gather. I made a few more phone calls to organisations and associations which protect prostitutes’ rights. Their views were to complete the panel of sources I already had. I started to write.

The week was long and intense. I was thinking about the article all the time, long after I had left the office. I had put so much of myself in the piece it was as if it had completely drained me. Not only was I feeling very nervous about it but also vulnerable having engaged so much with the topic.

D-Day came at last. The paper was in all the local news agencies. Although the editor hadn’t bothered giving me any feedback, the other journalists were really enthusiastic about it.

I was pleased with my work but terribly frustrated about it at the same time. Indeed, I would have liked to have more time. More time to investigate further this never ending topic from which I had only scratched the surface.

The internship was extremely rewarding and looking back on it I realised how much I learnt from it. One thing for example: Time is the journalist’s best friend and worst enemy. Overall, I think I can proudly say I won the fight ! Yet, I am going to hang on to the boxing gloves a bit longer….

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