I remember the day vividly.
I was sitting in Professor Jenn “Shepp” Sheppard’s office to discuss an assignment for my sports writing class. 20 minutes later, we finally began talking about the assignment.
Shepp pulled out a piece of paper from her stack and told me about this flood serviceship the university was offering. At first, I figured it was like a two or three week trip where we’d just go around and help with the floods. In a sense, this is exactly what it was. Except it was a 10-week project.
I was skeptical: It was already April, and the university was expecting to have all the details ironed out by Memorial Day. I didn’t think it was going to happen, but I told Shepp yes because I had nothing planned for my summer and having a summer job relating to journalism sounded nice.
Shepp must have hated me: I kept checking with her to make sure this serviceship was going to happen. I wanted certainty, and as the school year ended, there wasn’t much certainty. I finally received the hiring paperwork and took a deep sigh of relief.
I made a joke with Shepp.
“What if they don’t hire me?” I asked.
“They’ll hire you because you’re in charge of this,” she said.
This was news to me. I wasn’t prepared to be in charge. I was just going to interview some people and write some stories.
I came in on day one and I had two goals: make a Twitter account and improve the website.
Faculty and students had a website thrown together for a project immediately after the flood. It was obvious the website needed work, so I spent hours on hours the first week trying to figure out what the best look for the website would be.
A week in, the goal was accomplished. The website was presentable, and we could start advertising it to the public.
The uncertainty I had at the very beginning was still there. I didn’t know where we wanted this project to go, and I don’t think my fellow colleagues knew either.
There wasn’t structure in the news room at the beginning. People needed to have roles. We needed to find out where we could put people in order to succeed. This isn’t easy. We tried to give people projects they enjoyed, but sometimes life isn’t always fair.
Remember, I sort of got thrown into this.
I received the title “managing editor.” Maybe I let the title get to my head. I don’t know. I had never be in this type of authority before. I was looking for structure. Some of my colleagues didn’t like this. That was OK. Not everyone can be happy, and we tried to resolve this in a professional manner because that is what we want to be. We want to be professionals. Not just students but professionals.
This may sound like a lot, because it is. I didn’t even get to the part we actually traveled and told the stories of the wonderful people of Nebraska, because there are some truly remarkable people around this state, which makes the long hours worth it.
When someone asks me what I am doing this summer, I sometimes have a hard time explaining because this is so unique. When I finish my long, complicated description of the serviceship, they still look at me with some confusion, but they move to the next question.
“Do you like it?”
“No I don’t like it. I love it.”