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Katherine Isbell Gains First-Hand Newsroom Experience at The Patriot Ledger

Katherine (Katie) Isbell.

Katherine Isbell, an undergraduate Journalism student, is currently on her first co-op at The Patriot Ledger, and gaining some incredible hands-on experience. From writing articles to editing the events calendar, every day is different. We recently caught up with her to learn more about her experience so far!

Tell us about your role at The Patriot Ledger.

I’m an editorial intern, and I work as a reporter. I’m also responsible for working on the calendar page, a weekly list of activities or places to visit in the area, briefs, and anything else that comes my way. I cover all kinds of stories, and no two days are every exactly the same.

What does a typical day look like for you? Or are there any reporting projects you’d like to mention?

There really isn’t a typical day. Most days begin with me going through the newsroom email to find anything that may need to be covered, like news tips or events. I work on the calendar page most days, including a daily “Get up and go” section which highlights an event going on in our coverage area. I interact with the other reporters as well as the editors throughout the day.

A lot of days I go out to cover a story, which is probably my favorite part of the job. A few days ago I got to go to the USS Salem for a US Naval Sea Cadets Change of Command Ceremony, which was really cool because the ship was huge and I’d never been on anything like it before. My first day here I got sent to the beach to cover lifeguard training. Another day I was sent out to talk to people on the beach about how hot it was. I’ve met the District Attorney for Norfolk County, firefighters, local historians, even a former Patriots player.

I also work on stories from within the newsroom. My favorite was a story about a shark that was accidentally caught and killed off the coast of the South Shore, and the fishermen didn’t want the death to be a waste, so they called local marine biologists and researchers until they found someone who had them bring the shark into Scituate Harbor to be examined. I talked to one of the researchers who took samples from the shark on the phone, and it was really interesting to me because I’m terrified of sharks and this person, whose entire job is dedicated to researching them, loves sharks. I got to learn more about what happened and how a simple type of net to catch fish can kill a great white shark. The cool thing about that story was the tip came from a Facebook post sent to me by another reporter.

Right now I’m working on a story for the paper’s summer series, which runs in our weekend paper. I’m looking at how the South Shore used to be a big farming community and how that legacy has carried through to day. I’m going to go to some farmer’s markets and also to a working farm.

What do you love about the job?

I love being in an actual newsroom and being a part of what’s going on here. I love getting to see what happens when breaking news hits or when we get a news tip that turns out to be a big story. I also love getting to go out and do the things I’ve spent my first three years at Northeastern learning how to do. Being around other reporters is a huge plus. Some of the people I work with have been working as journalists longer than I’ve been alive, and they’ve seen how things have changed and how they’re continuing to change in the current media landscape. I’m learning so much from the people I work with, which makes my job so much more interesting.

How did Northeastern classes prepare you for this kind of work?

I learned a lot of the skills that I’m using every day on the job, from basic writing skills and AP Style to writing catchy headlines and making the things I write good for print or social media. Basic journalism classes taught me how to write in the style that I do my work in. The class I had to take to go on co-op prepared me with the basics of how to be professional.

Something that prepared me for this job in particular was having to do reporting for class assignments. If I hadn’t already gone out and done things like talking to people at an event or on the street, going to a public meeting, interviewing an expert, or taking video of an event to add to a story, I wouldn’t have known what I was doing when I started working here.

Where else have you done a co-op and what’s the strength of the program to you?

This is my first co-op. I feel like I’m getting so many opportunities while I’m still in school that will put me ahead when I graduate. I’m getting real experience working as a reporter, and I wouldn’t be getting that without the co-op program. It was really satisfying when I realized a few days in that I had chosen the absolute right career path for myself. I think this program is important because it gives students a chance to “try out” a career for six months, and if it’s not the right thing, they’re not stuck. Knowing that I have the support of the school and my co-op advisor for the entire time I’m working here is really important to me.

Any advice for current students?

Take advantage of opportunities when you’re in classes that can add to your resume. Times where I reported a single story for an event that one of my teachers was looking for coverage for ended up helping me when it came time to interview and show writing samples.

Additionally, take advantages of the resources around you, namely the people. Ask your professors a million questions and ask the people you’re working with on co-op about what they do and how they do it and learn from it. It’s one thing to learn from your textbooks but it’s another to learn from the people who are actually out there doing the things you’re learning about.