Nearly three years ago, I wrote my very first story for The Falcon newspaper at SPU. It was a news story about Mohammed Yunus, founder of Grameen Bank in India. Grameen Bank finances micro-loans (primarily to women), allowing the poorest of the poor to start their own businesses and repay the small loans over time. As a result, Yunus is considered the father of micro-finance, one of the first social entrepreneurs.
Social entrepreneurship…It wasn’t a topic I found really interesting, and I wrote the story based on a news release/conference call. I’m pretty sure I had no idea what I was doing as a news writer.
Why is that relevant now? This morning, I picked up a paper copy of the Washington Post and read a story in the business section about social entrepreneurship. It was a decent story. I wrote it.
This byline was a long time coming. On the second day of my internship, I pitched story ideas to my editors. One of the first stories we agreed I would write was a “primer on social entrepreneurship,” a features-type story that explained the basics of this new trend in business.
The idea intimidated me, but I took it on faith that my editors thought I was capable to take on the challenge. Usually, interns are sent to write stories about events, which are (more or less) easy to cover: The topics are (often) inherently newsworthy, and obvious sources are sequestered in one place at one time. Oh, who should I interview? Probably the people at the event. When should I interview them? Probably during/right after the event. Event ends, go write the story, instant gratification when it gets published quickly.
Features stories about emerging trends in business are not that simple. First of all, they require much more time, possibly over an extended period of days that stretches into a period of weeks. They require countless emails sent to a mind-numbing number of sources, requiring that you schedule multiple interviews at possibly inopportune times, in order to accommodate the schedules of high-profile sources that don’t truly have time to talk. You end up with more information that you need and certainly more than you can use in a single story. Consequently, the writing process is slow-going; for every detail you choose to include, several have to be left out. It’s a lot of work, it’s frustrating, it’s that project that never seems to go away.
And the end result — the delayed gratification — is worth it.
As I was reading my story this morning, though, I found myself returning in my mind to that first news story I wrote. They focused on the same topic, so the comparison stands out. A lot has changed since then. I’m a little more familiar with this whole “news writing” thing. I am actually interested in social entrepreneurship. And somewhere between here and there, I grew from a scared rookie (who took the story because she was too scared to say no) into a young professional who tackled the topic because she wanted the challenge.
None of this is to say that “I’ve arrived” in the writing world, because I still have a long way to go. I’m somehow both proud of and humbled by moments like this. After all, I’m still an intern, and I’m still learning. But perhaps it’s useful to consider that I’ve been on a path since the beginning of my college journalism career, and this is the end of that road. Only now that I’ve gone full circle can I appreciate how far I’ve come.
And how far I can still go.