By April Abel (Media Arts students)

April Abel, Media Arts student

April Abel, Media Arts student

It was not what I had in mind for this semester.

But my internship is one of the most exhilarating and challenging things I have ever done.

Working as a reporter in the News Journal newsroom is humbling.

Deadlines are tighter than any professor’s, and there’s no room for excuses in the newsroom. Either you have it, or you don’t.

You had better damn well have it.

The newsroom has some of the most fast-paced, friendliest, yet foul-mouthed folks you could meet. They welcomed me warmly.

Still, I was pretty scared.

I dove in on my first story, about a fruit stand at Winterthur, a museum near Wilmington. It seemed harmless enough.

Problem: I could not get anyone to call me back. I waited for the phone to ring, then jumped when it did.

“News Journal, newsroom, this is April,” I said, hoping they couldn’t sense my inexperience. With that interview and two others, I had the bones of my first story.

I submitted it and eagerly waited it in Saturday’s paper. Exciting.

Next week’s assignment was much more complex.

It was to be a story about a man who was getting the first state-funded handicapped-accessible conversion van. I had to arrange an interview with the conversion company in New Castle, then dash to the recipient’s farmhouse in Glasgow to interview him, and meet the photographer.

All that after the hour and a half driving from home to the newsroom.

I thought I had good directions.

I missed an exit on I-95 and had to pay a $4 toll twice to get there. I almost missed the van being delivered.

I introduced myself, apologized for being late, and we got to work. Staff photographer Jennifer Corbett shot pictures of the van and driver, and I interviewed the person who trained him to use the complex controls.

Later, I sat down to interview Steve Cook, who is wheelchair-bound because of muscular dystrophy. The vehicle allows him to travel independently. He drives his motorized wheelchair right into the van.

The story ran on the front page of the B section on Labor Day Monday.

It was only my second assignment, but it drew lots of positive comments.

I treated myself to a New Castle County map book to celebrate.

I have since written about gay pride, Christian youth, domestic violence prevention, land conservation, and disability mentoring.

In October, I covered Al Sharpton’s visit to Milford, and interviewed leaders of the Delaware NAACP.

Each interview I did stretched my skills. Each story offered new and different challenges. That’s living in the leap.

My college experiences have given me the chance to learn from some talented people. I am awed by their generosity of time and patience.

Saying yes to the internship has shaped me as a person, an artist and a journalist.

I have a very different life since returning to college as a 40-year-old four years ago.

By the time I graduate in December, 17 of my stories will have been published in the News Journal. Two of my photos will have been on the front page of the Milford Chronicle, with more inside.

Accepting the internship also meant the expenses of mileage, tolls and calls. Nearly $500 over the course of a semester.

It was worth every cent.

The story clips, the experiences, the friendships and networking—are priceless.

After graduation, I hope to continue to write and photograph for local and state publications, and look forward to the next challenge.