Rebekah Tuchscherer: Notes from Augustana Student's USA Today Internship
We caught up with Rebekah Tuchscherer '20, senior journalism and STEM composite major, who had the rare opportunity to spend the summer interning at USA Today in New York City. Here are some of her thoughts throughout her experience.
Prior to her internship starting, on May 31, 2019 (Sioux Falls, SD)
Q: Describe the application process for this internship.
A: During October, I applied to the Chips Quinn Scholars Program for Diversity in Journalism, a Freedom Forum program that offers training and mentoring for select journalism students across the country. In addition to a week-long multimedia workshop in Nashville that I attended with 27 others, the program sent out my resume to dozens of newspapers and multimedia outlets looking to hire Chips Quinn Scholars for summer-long internships. USA Today’s money and consumer technology branch got hold of my application and cover letter, called me during the first week of April, and let me know about a week later that they’d like to see me in New York City for the summer. So, surprisingly, I didn’t apply to this internship directly, but had an offer, nonetheless.
Q: How did you feel after getting notified you were in?
A: I was working on finishing up some analytical chemistry lab measurements when I looked down at the caller ID flashing on my phone. I immediately looked at my lab partner, said a quick “I gotta go” and ran into the hallway for the good news and to (pretty blindly) accept the internship offer. I remember having this weird mixture of shock and cloud nine lightness rushing through my brain for about a week before the reality had a chance to take hold.
Q: What do you expect to gain from the experience?
A: After working with South Dakota Public Broadcasting and the Argus Leader for the past two summers and gaining experience reporting on both local and state levels, I’m excited to test out writing for a national audience. I’ll also have the chance to focus more narrowly on business-specific issues and hopefully pitch and pursue a few of my own story ideas along the way.
Q: What are you most looking forward to doing during this internship?
A: I’m really looking forward to working in the fast-paced news environment alongside experienced reporters, as well as with editors who can help make my writing more concise, aggressive, efficient and impactful. I’ll also be able to expand my network of sources and journalists, which will lead to a deeper institutional knowledge and more insightful writing throughout the summer.
Q: What gives you the most anxiety about going to NYC and being at USA Today?
A: I’ve never been to New York before (like, ever) and I’m mildly nervous about public transportation (aka the subway system). However, I’m very, very excited to meet dozens of new people, live in a new city and report on issues that affect citizens across the board.
Q: Anything else on your mind before you depart Sioux Falls?
A: I’m so, so thankful to all my friends and colleagues at the Argus Leader and The Augustana Mirror for helping me as I weave my way through various internships, projects and publications. I’ve learned (and am still learning) how to raise awareness around issues that matter within our communities, and I’m very excited to continue peeking under bureaucratic rocks and shining lights in shadowy corners.
Midway through her internship on July 15, 2019 (New York City)
Q: What is being in NYC like? What are some of your favorite things or places you’ve discovered?
A: New York City is an all-engrossing city, brimming with beautiful people, historic buildings and pigeons on every sidewalk. There’s an anonymity that creates a huge space for freedom of expression, cultural interactions and eating a four-pack of Nutter Butters on the subway after work, completely free of judgement (if you know what I mean). Life in New York demands to be noticed, something that can’t so easily be said for the beautiful Midwest. Some of my favorite places to visit have included lower Manhattan, the Brooklyn Bridge and SoHo. I love living in Harlem, and will often walk to Morningside Park, stake out a park bench and pet the cute dogs that pass by. I’ve been on a constant search for the best slice of pizza, and love every minute I can spend walking across the city.
Q: Tell us what life is like at USA Today. What is the newsroom like compared to the Argus Leader or The Mirror?
A: Working for USA Today has ranged from intensely terrifying to humorous at times, and has definitely been one of the best learning experiences I’ve encountered during my college career. Each day is unpredictable — some days, I’ll be writing a cute, quick-hit story about the world’s fastest lawn mower and on others I’ll be traveling downtown to Lower Manhattan to cover a high-profile protest against police brutality. Working for the Argus taught me the ins and outs of covering events, working on deadline and being a reporter. USA Today has taught me how to further those skills and nationalize stories, making them relatable for readers across the nation.
Q: What is something that’s been an unexpected surprise?
A: Honestly? When everyone said that New York City smelled terrible, I thought they were just prairie-raised purists who were intimidated by skyscrapers and large amounts of concrete. Turns out, they’re 1,000% right; NYC absolutely reeks. I’m pretty sure living here for three months has taken a good two years off my lungs.
Q: Have you gotten the chance to work on any stories?
A: Definitely! I write about three to five articles each week. Most of them center around business reports and retail news, but the USA Today breaking news team (they’re based out of Virginia) will tap me about once each week to cover something local to New York, like the 50th anniversary of the Stonewall Riots or the “We are Eric Garner” protests.
Q: What is the best part about this internship so far?
A: I’ve always loved covering breaking news and politics, but venturing into the business side of reporting made me nervous. There are many facets of finance that I’ve never been exposed to before this summer, and so learning more about stock market implications, talking with financial advisors and interviewing owners of larger companies has been fascinating. No matter what kind of beat I eventually end up covering, I know the skills I’m learning here will be transferrable.
Q: If you could go back to May and tell yourself one thing to not worry or stress out about, what would that be?
A: Not many journalists from the Midwest make it to the east coast, especially those who didn’t attend a nationally ranked journalism school. I experienced some pretty extreme impostor syndrome leading up to May and traveling to New York and doubted that I would fit into the newsroom or have the right set of skills to write national articles. After two months, however, I’m more confident that my Midwestern perspective is important and appreciated in the newsroom. The news affects people of all backgrounds and cultures, and to best understand and empathize with those stories, our journalists ought to come from diverse backgrounds, as well.
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