Editor’s Note: Journalism major Isa Luzarraga ’25, a School of Communication student writer last academic year, is spending her summer interning at The Kansas City Star through the Dow Jones News Fund’s internship program, and writing about her experience. The first in an occasional series.
For me, it has never been a matter of if I take on an internship but when, where, and how. Like many of my peers, I knew the summer before my junior year would be spent exploring my area of study in a newsroom.
What many hiring managers and references neglect to tell us is that sometimes the application and interview process is more stressful than the actual internship. And while I have only completed my second week as a member of The Kansas City Star’s Audience Team, I can say that my coursework and previous experiences prepared me for my summer work.
I applied for the Dow Jones News Fund’s (DJNF) internship program early last October, content to finish one application before inevitably beginning the next. What I thought was a typical resume and cover letter submission turned into a 90-minute aptitude test covering everything from news literacy questions to data analysis to search engine optimization. Suffice to say, I thought I had done horribly.
Early December, I received a call from one of the directors of DJNF, who wanted me to join their digital media cohort. He gave me a list of newsrooms that were interested in my experience. Since I had always been interested in The Star and would be somewhat close to my home in Omaha, Nebraska, I gladly accepted an internship with them only a few days following the end of the fall semester.
I was excited to have my summer plans solidified so early, yet I was anxiously awaiting the next phase of my experience with DJNF, a nine-day digital media fellowship in Phoenix. Two weeks after the end of the spring semester, the News Fund flew me and 20 other journalism students to the desert, so we could train at Arizona State University’s Walter Cronkite School of Journalism.
I admit I was nervous about the prospect of spending over a week with 20 people I had never met before. After nine days of lectures, dinners, chats and working on multimedia projects, we bonded and were happily sweating together in the 100 degree heat. That training as well as what I learned from my journalism professors at Emerson enabled me to begin my internship in Kansas City with a Google Doc full of ideas for improving on The Star’s audience engagement and social media strategies .
Still, I was anxious at the prospect of working in a real newsroom. Sure, I had published freelance pieces before and collaborated with other students to produce a magazine, but I had never actually worked in an established, regional newsroom. I was imagining dozens of austere cubicles, lukewarm cups of coffee and editors staring at me with incredulity when I started talking about covering Taylor Swift’s Eras Tour.
Of course, that was just my impostor syndrome. Once I got settled at my desk—devoid of walls or cubicle features of any kind—and placed my fingers on the keyboard of my desktop, I felt at ease.
Every morning, I walk 20 minutes from my AirBnB in midtown Kansas City to the massive Crown Center building downtown, basking in the sun and listening to NPR. When I hover my key card over the fob and open the glass doors emblazoned with “The Kansas City Star,” I feel fulfilled and humbled all at once.
Don’t get me wrong, the first week was a lot of adjustment: voraciously typing notes during news meetings, learning the intricacies of newsletter writing, trying to brainstorm headlines. It wasn’t easy, but as I acclimated to the newsroom’s culture and leaned into my daily schedule of meetings, work time and feedback sessions, I began to find my purpose as one member of a larger team, a greater newsroom and an even greater publishing company.
More than anything, I have learned to be open—to criticism, to new opportunities, to friendships. Coming home to my little apartment and living alone for the first time in my 20 years is freeing because I am able to use the space and solitude to truly appreciate my circumstances and the hard work that has afforded me my internship and other opportunities.
Instead of framing my job at The Star as a make-or-break position, I am trying to put less pressure on myself and think of it more as a celebration of my persistence and creativity.
Isa is a sophomore journalism major minoring in media studies. She is from Omaha, Nebraska but loves coming back to the city. Outside of coursework, Isa is the Managing Editor of Your Magazine, the secretary of Emerson's chapter of NAHJ and a freelance writer for publications nationwide. She loves reading in the Common, going for long runs and sipping iced coffee.