A reflection after publication in The Chronicle Review
I woke up last Monday morning more excited than I had been since graduation. Finally, an excerpt from an essay of mine was going to be published in The Chronicle of Higher Education’s The Chronicle Review.
I was shocked when I saw the title given to the piece, something decided by copy editors, usually just before publication. For hard-copy publications, those headlines are designed with space and audience in mind. For web publications, space isn’t as important and search engine optimization — getting hits — becomes more important.
The original title of my essay was “Miami.” The editors there called it “Internship from Hell.”
It was true that the story was about an internship experience I had last summer that was less than ideal. But it was not, by any means, a story about a bad internship, about cruel editors and starving for lack of compensation. It was a story about my poor reaction to an internship almost anyone would have been grateful to have. I had fantastic editors who let me join in on an A1 story on my first day. My last story also ran on the front-page. They were tirelessly kind to me.
The piece was meant to disparage its author, to tell the world I had doubts, that certain things about the job shocked me and didn’t compare to what I had been doing in the classroom. It didn’t compare to the journalistic lore about Woodward and Bernstein going after Nixon or my own journalism professor going after Clinton.
It’s also true that the story was cut down considerably for space before it was published. I saw the final cut, yes, but never thought the essay would be received the way it was, even with the missing bits.
I now realize the essay was missing too much. The humor and lightheartedness were chopped off — bits about a comical living situation, the non-gruesome stories I got to write and the time my editor drove God-knows-how-far out of his way to pick me up on the side of the road after my car was taken to a mechanic in Ft. Lauderdale.
But the essay was also missing something I didn’t write, the looking back one year later and seeing it was the most valuable professional experience of my life. It didn’t chase me away from journalism completely, as many armchair critics (trolls) surmised. It didn’t leave me feeling mistreated. I left Miami happy to get back home, back to school, and all the wiser for having spent seven weeks in South Florida. Nothing after seemed so challenging, and I was inspired to work even harder. I had more war stories than any other intern I knew, and I was also proud of that.
I completed an honors thesis and continued to stay in touch with everyone from El Nuevo Herald who gave me the inspiration for it. I placed the editor at the top of my resume references list, knowing he had seen me overcome obstacles and fears more than anyone. He, and a few others, had become lifelong friends and mentors. This is because I didn’t give up while I was in Miami. I still had a story to turn in everyday, even though the subjects were often darker than what I would have wished for.
Keep in mind that retrospective, the realization that it was the most formative professional experience of my life, and read my essay, “Miami,” in its entirety here. View the published excerpt at The Chronicle Review.
Artwork by Keith Negley. Used with permission.