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Intern Insider: Journalism student gaining greater 'sense' of self at D.C. newspaper

Jesse approached junior journalism major Mary Yost. He said, "You'd be amazed what can happen if you just accept people for who they are."

Mary Yost works with homeless people to produce the newspaper Street Sense in Washington, D.C.

Yost let the thought marinate for a moment, but in reality, she immediately embraced its message.

“This quote has stuck with me throughout my experience because it reminds me to be patient and accept everyone I encounter for who they are and appreciate the talents they contribute to our community, whether it is someone I am interviewing for a story, a vendor or a fellow intern,” Yost said.

Jesse is one of those aforementioned vendors with whom Yost works at the newspaper Street Sense in Washington, D.C. He’s also homeless.

And it’s interactions like the one with Jesse that have helped define and enhance Yost’s internship so far this summer.

Street Sense is produced by four staff members and a team of interns, all of whom work together with the homeless to write, photograph and design. The vendors, who are all homeless, purchase completed papers for $0.35 and then sell them on the streets of the nation’s Capitol for $1.

The paper, Yost said, is both a professional and economic outlet for the vendors because “they get writing experience and do not have to panhandle because they can sell a paper they are proud of.”

As an editorial intern, Yost writes articles that center on topics related to homelessness and poverty, updates the publication’s Web site and posts daily blogs on topics such as where homeless individuals can find shelter during the excessive summer heat.

She’s getting valuable on-the-job journalism training, but she’s also earning something more intangible, in her mind.

“Working at Street Sense has been an incredible experience because I have had the opportunity to grow both professionally and personally,” Yost said. “Every day I get into the office, I have the chance to improve my writing skills by posting an update on the website’s blog or writing an article for publication.”

Yost is a non-violence studies minor and a student who’s been heavily involved in The Pendulum, Elon’s weekly student newspaper, and various service organizations on campus. So working for Street Sense has been a perfect melding of her two deepest passions: to write and to serve.

She said her coursework at Elon—particularly Media Writing—has helped prepare her for the hustle of newspaper publishing. She said she hopes, though, her internship will continue her education and teach her how to cover sensitive social issues accurately and fairly.

“My ultimate goal for this internship is to improve my confidence and develop my talent as a writer for a topic I am truly passionate about addressing: homelessness,” Yost said. “I hope to learn how to present issues related to homelessness and poverty in a fair and balanced manner so readers can understand their far-reaching implications.”

Yost has been reading Street Sense since 2003, but she’s been anxiously awaiting the opportunity to become part of the team. Then this year, she applied for the internship during Fake Break and received an offer a few weeks into the beginning of the spring semester.

And so far, the wait has been worth it. Yost, of course, is gaining practical experience, but she’s also becoming a more complete person and more enlightened student of issues that are important to her.

“This internship has opened my eyes to the role politics plays in social issues,” Yost said. “The highlight of my day is always talking to the vendors because they teach me a lot of interesting perspectives on life and will always have a conversation with me. I am so thankful I have this opportunity.”

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 or in School of Communications programs.

Colin Donohue,
7/2/2010 7:56 PM