Straightening the collar of his sport coat and clearing his voice, he eloquently answered all of my questions about the mock trial event, acting much older than 14. After we finished and he thought I had stopped paying attention, he walked back to his group of friends and whispered, "Guys! She's from the Journal Sentinel," as his head nodded in my direction.
His composure had begun to dissolve even before we had gone our separate ways, when his disposition shifted from the poise of a professional who belonged in the federal courtroom we stood in, to the giddiness of a child.
"Wait, am I going to be in the paper tomorrow?" he asked with anticipation. Little did he know, we were both basically freshmen in the same boat, his first mock trial and my first solo story for the Journal Sentinel. I wasn't actually that big of a deal.
Smiling big, I responded that yes, he would be able to look in the Sunday paper and see his name. That's when it hit me that I would be able to do the same thing.
I just started interning with the Journal Sentinel last week. I will be working closely with the main education reporter, Annysa Johnson, and writing primarily on education issues in the city of Milwaukee and the state of Wisconsin.
In my first week, despite the fact that I couldn't find the coffee maker in the newsroom or that my boss judged me for using a gold glittery notebook, I managed to call a few people and conduct some quick interviews to help Annysa complete two stories. One was about the seclusion and restraint tactics used in schools and the other was about a local Muslim leader who lead prayer in the state assembly. I even got to tag along on a trip to Madison to sit in on an education committee hearing where representatives voted on a bill with a controversial amendment that changes the way the state's school voucher program would be funded if it passed on the floor.
On Saturday, I got to cover the regional mock trial competition for Milwaukee area high school students. Talking to students about their experiences in the program and their perspectives about the issue of police use of force that they were debating put me much more in my wheelhouse than having to navigate dry newsroom humor or keep an adult-like attention span in a cubicle like I had struggled to do the week prior. Parts of the story reminded me of something I would have covered for the Milwaukee Neighborhood News Service, which put me at ease, and it landed me my first solo byline for the JS, right there on page 3A of the Sunday paper.
Graduating from a Wisconsin public high school and then working with high school students on Milwaukee's northwest side for the past three years has left me with plenty of passion about the state of education in this city. I am excited to learn more about the nuances and the challenges of the education system, and I can't wait to share stories of students and structures that will contribute to a fuller community conversation.
Stay tuned to this blog to join in my journey. As of yet, I haven't met my Logan Huntzberger in the newsroom, and I don't quite feel qualified enough to start my dream girl band called All the President's Women with my roommates, but I'll keep you posted as I start to feel more and more like the fierce version of Rory Gilmore or the fem Woodward and Bernstein.
Until then, I'll try to cling to my colleague Crocker across the cubicle's piece of advice for an aspiring journalist:
1. Pay attention and tell the truth.
2. Be kind.
I am a senior studying journalism and international affairs at Marquette University. I am a Milwaukee-dweller and a storyteller passionate about exploring the intersection between community-building and communication. I'd love for you to learn alongside me!