Interning as a Journalist for the Shanghaiist

When I began to apply for the internship to be a journalist for the online media outlet, The Shanghaiist, I didn’t know what I was getting into. I’m a biology major, not an English one but I decided to go for it because Shanghai was the place I wanted to be and I like any opportunity I can get to improve my writing skills. My application for the internship required me to write a couple article drafts but I didn’t know if I was in the right or wrong, if my writing was sufficient, if it had enough voice, and enough spice that the Shanghaiist wanted. Soon enough, I got it and there we go, Shanghai Summer was set.

For my first day at the office (which by the way was the most convenient location in relation to my apartment its just get on Line 9, go two stations, get on Line 11, go one stop, exit and walk for two minutes and bam you’re there), I was given the basic rundown as I settled into my cubicle. Pick a topic or headline that’s happened within the past 1-3 days, look into it more to know all the facts and opinions, and just write with the audience in mind and with your own sense of flare if it needed it. When I finished drafts I would send them to my editor and within a day or two they were up, reading for the readers of the Shanghaiist to feast their eyes on. It wasn’t hard to adjust to the routine, I could bust out 3-4 drafts on a super productive day, but on other days it would be 1-2 depending on how much I needed to research in order to be confident enough to write about it.

Writing articles centered around Asian and China news provided me with the opportunity to just become more aware of what goes on in the world. I came into my internship not particularly liking news and journalism. I may be ignorant or denying of reality, but when most of the news I hear about is regarding war, death, and sickness it easily just makes me want to shut my ears and dwell on the brighter things. So having this internship really challenged me in that I had to find comfort in discomfort.

Out of the 36 articles I wrote, some were fun, some were shocking, some were enlightening, and some just spoke to the reality of the world we live in. Some of the fun ones I did would just be short reviews on YouTube videos that makers based in Shanghai would make, or some rare occurrence meant to make you laugh like my article about China rebuilding a poorly designed fake Sphinx (again) which angered Egypt (again). What I did a lot of times was take on tough topics (the discomfort) but ones that were relative to health and science, my forte as you will, such that I was able to add my personal knowledge of the topic, explain the vernacular better, and create the tone that aligned with my feelings towards such topics (the comfort). I will say that there was one time I turned down a topic my editor sent me because the discomfort was too much.

That being said I wrote about a large variety of health/science-related issues such as sperm banks in China being incredibly selective, the death of an expat teacher resulted in saving the life of five others thanks to his organ donations,  a doctor receiving a weak prison sentence despite infecting multiple patients with HIV, and the black lung disease epidemic in China. Although a lot of times these articles didn’t have the information to brighten someone’s day, they were informative and I began to see the value in journalism, I began to see that journalism (when done honestly and accurately) is something that brings knowledge to the people, and I am a big believer that knowledge is power and learning is a lifetime activity.

By the end of this internship, I left learning so much and appreciating more of what journalism and how it connects and informs people. I remember checking the views on an article I wrote about Einstein and his secret racial views against Asians and being in shock when I found that it hit over 10,000 views. For me, it meant that thousands of people had become a little more educated and knowledgeable of a beloved scientist who wasn’t always a saint. I am glad I did this internship, it was a unique way to begin to learn and understand what dynamics, issues, and advances China has.