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Intern Insider: Liberating Internship Lets Knorr Chart Her Own Path

A good reporter knows that myopia too often breeds stale reporting. If you have too singular a focus because of your tight-fitting blinders, you might miss that kernel of information that could lead to a more fascinating story.

Alyse Knorr has reported on a wide range of topics, including Congress, the Supreme Court and the White House.

Senior Alyse Knorr learned this lesson, then wrote about how global warming may cause an increase in the kitten population.

Knorr, a journalism and English double major and Honors Fellow, is a reporter for the Scripps Howard Foundation Wire in Washington, a free service that provides stories and photos to any paper that wants them.

Knorr says her internship hasn’t been a “go get the coffee or go make some copies” kind of experience. Instead, her appetite for news has been whetted by covering Congress, the White House, the Supreme Court, a union group and a political action committee. She’s also written a number of features and enterprised her own stories, which is where the global warming-to-kittens connection comes in.

Knorr had originally planned to write about pet abandonment in Washington, a growing problem that has sprouted from the abundance of home foreclosures and the sinking economy. Knorr was talking to an animal shelter director in the area, when the director mentioned, offhand, that shelters see a lot of kittens at this time of year ostensibly because of global warming.

“This remark fascinated me,” Knorr says, “and I immediately lost all interest in my pet abandonment story. I asked her to explain what she meant, and after she elaborated a bit, I realized that I had stumbled across a much more interesting story.”

It turns out that every spring, warm weather coupled with longer days “drives female cats into heat,” Knorr wrote in her story, which causes the kitten population to multiply exponentially and rapidly.

“I like this story because it illustrates an important lesson I learned—just because you have one idea going into an interview doesn’t mean it’s what you’ll come out of the interview with,” she says.

And that pretty much sums up Knorr’s experience at the Scripps Howard Foundation Wire. She has almost complete freedom to pursue her own stories. She does receive an e-mail every day with suggestions of stories to cover, but it’s not a rigid budget. She’s told to dive head first into her own original ideas.

“I’ve tried to take advantage of this opportunity as much as possible, and it’s really been paying off,” Knorr says. “I’ve been learning how to cover a wide range of beats, and I feel much more comfortable with political reporting in particular now. I’m also being published everywhere from California to Kansas, which is nice.

“Another perk is that I get to live in the nation’s capital for free, and it’s one the most fun places I’ve ever lived. There’s so much going on all the time—and so much news.”

Knorr landed this seemingly free-for-all, yet wholly engrossing and educational, internship in the spring, after completing an application and doing a phone interview from Dublin in the fall. She calls the foundation wire one of her “reach internships,” so she was admittedly surprised and ecstatic when she received word of her acceptance.

Knorr, who has worked as an editor in several capacities for The Pendulum and interned extensively with the Greensboro News & Record, says she felt sufficiently prepared for her internship because of her aforementioned extracurricular endeavors and her in-class training.

“Elon has absolutely prepared me for this internship,” she says. “From a technical standpoint, the journalism skills I’ve learned in my communications classes have been valuable in the day-to-day executions of reporting here.

“But Elon has prepared me in an entirely different way, too, which may be even more valuable than the technical knowledge. Elon has taught me more holistic, qualitative skills that have been crucial in the workplace. By these skills, I mean how to be aggressive and go for what I want, how to network and converse with superiors, and how to make myself and my work stand out from the crowd.”

Certainly Knorr’s summer of self-directed experience, scope of reporting and impressive clips will help elucidate the path she takes during her final year at Elon and into her soon-to-be career.

“This internship has really given me breadth—I’ve really tried to diversify the beats I cover to take the most advantage of all the freedom I’ve been allowed in picking my topics,” she says. “I’m sure the new skills I’ve developed here will help my writing and studying during my last year at Elon and well into my early career, as well.”

Intern Insider will run one to two times a week during the summer and will feature brief stories about some of the interns from the School of Communications.

Colin Donohue,
8/12/2008 8:51 AM