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Column: The intern’s goodbye

My internship with the Yukon Review and Mustang News may be coming to an end, but it helped me clarify what I want to do with my life and why I want to do it.Maleyia Vaughn

When I first started my internship, I was terrified. I wasn’t terrified because I thought I couldn’t do it or I wasn’t confident in my abilities, but because I had no idea if journalism was even the right path for me.

Although I was skeptical, this internship showed me exactly what I want to do with my Mass Communications degree.

I walked in my first day and was told to go meet people, get calendars from the libraries, community centers, senior centers, etc. of both towns. I was told to plan out my two months the best I could and build those relationships quickly. I was still terrified and awkward, but I’m never quiet when it comes to meeting people. I love people, plus I grew up in the Mustang/Yukon area and never visited most of these places, so it was time to finally explore my so-called “hometowns.”

I was excited to meet new people and find out more about the cities where I graduated high school, danced and got my first job, but I didn’t realize how quickly I would build relationships with my sources here.

My second day I covered an event at the Mabel C. Fry Public Library in Yukon. No one mentioned it would be an outside event and I got a horrible sunburn, but it was all worth it when two days later a library employee called the office specifically for me to thank me for being there and ask if I would cover more events for them.

Of course I won’t bore you with a rundown of every day of an eight week internship, but to have someone call for me and pronounce my name correctly in my first week… that was an incredible feeling, and those incredible feelings only grew from there.

The first time I had photos and a story published in either paper I was giddy with excitement to see my byline. It was the same feeling I got when my byline was first published in Oklahoma City University’s The Campus, but this feeling never went away. I’m still giddy every single time.

After I wrote my first column on the Orlando Shootings, I received hate mail from a reader who disagreed with almost every word I said and let me know it. I was beyond excited when I received the letter because did he agree with me? No. Was he very nice in his letter? Not at all, he actually called me an idiot and accused me of being un-Christian. Was I surprised there were people in Canadian County who disagreed with me about Islam? Of course not. But he took the time to read my column then took the time to hand-write and hand-deliver me a letter with his own opinions and thought-process. The purpose of a column isn’t for every reader to agree, but to stir up conversation, and I was excited I got the opportunity to do that.

The next week I was told they received a call in response to my column and my first thought was ‘yay, more hate mail,’ but after listening to the voicemail, I found out it wasn’t hate mail at all. A woman actually called just to say how much she enjoyed reading it and how happy she is the Yukon Review would publish something like that. She mentioned in the message that it restored her faith in the newspaper and wanted to re-subscribe.

After that call, I finally said ‘this is what I want to do the rest of my life.’ Sure, I love to write and I’m pretty good at it, I can take decent photos, and I can do some layout, but none of that was enough to make up my mind. I want to be a journalist because of the people and because what I do matters to them. Whether readers hate it or love it, it matters.

Small-town papers definitely mean wearing multiple hats because everything is always your job, but it also means being a part of the community. I was never just the intern or just the journalist, I was a community member and that meant being welcomed with open arms and treated like family.

I couldn’t have asked for a better internship. This internship has pushed me to being the best I can be at all-aspects of journalism and I’m a much better-rounded journalist because of it. So thank you to Victoria Middleton and Kyle Salomon for pushing me out of my comfort zone, giving me challenging stories, allowing me to work on my photography skills, giving me this opportunity, and for just believing in me. I’m grateful for you both!

My internship may be coming to an end, but this isn’t goodbye because I’m staying close to home to continue my career. I’m happy to announce I have been given the opportunity to continue this wonderful journey with the Yukon Review and Mustang News full-time. I’m so excited to meet even more amazing people and continue to grow my relationships with all of them.

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