By allowing ads to appear on this site, you support the local businesses who, in turn, support great journalism.
Reporters Notebook
Ramblings From The Interns Desk
Autumn Neal mug

I’m going to admit that writing this column is actually pretty hard. I have about four different introductions that I could be using; each time I start I say “Erase everything else. This one has to come from the heart.” And yet, here we are. Take from the heart part five.

I’m not exactly sure how to write a column. I’m not exactly sure how to write about myself. I’m not exactly sure how to encapsulate an entire summer into a few paragraphs. I don’t have quotes to lean on, nor a clear objective. Not even a word limit. Just Editor Marg Jackson encouraging me to write a column about my experience here as an intern. So ... I guess I’ll do my best.

I’m from Oakdale and have been all my life. I think this very fact created connections for me to use when I’m interviewing or writing articles. My family is known across town, which means that if I talk to someone and give my last name, they’re likely to ask “Are you Orval and Apryl’s daughter?” Yes. Yes, I am.

The Oakdale Leader has been a prominent part of my life for a long time. When I was younger, I used to help my aunt, cousins, and grandma roll the newspaper. We would all group together and sit on couches and chairs to roll the papers up and bag them in the evenings, and our hands would be smeared with the ink of tomorrow’s news. I even was able to go out on a few delivery trips and try to throw the papers onto driveways.

Fast forward to today, about eight years later, and I’m finishing up a summer working for The Leader and writing the stories that will mark up someone else’s hands as they prepare the news for the public.

Thanks to the Oakdale Chamber of Commerce’s job shadowing opportunity, I have been able to be a part of the Oakdale Leader as an intern for the summer. It’s been an unforgettable experience – one that I am so grateful for. Not only did I get involved in my community more than I have in a long time, but I also got a chance to see it from a different perspective.

I learned a lot at this internship and got into a weekly groove. Mondays were for writing articles, Wednesdays were for searching up “idioms for football” so I could sound witty in my captions for top media on the website, and Fridays were for typing interviews so they’d be easier to access when Monday rolled around again.

The people around the office are also amazing. I tried to list all of them, but I can’t really capture this crowd with just a sentence each.

When I think of my time spent here, I will definitely think of writing, of meeting new people, and of exploring my town, but there are a few other things that come to mind. The birthday game. The daily bantering between Virginia Still and Dennis Cruz. The occasional visiting-the-office dogs that would run through and let me pet them. The rumor that there’s a ghost in the office. Trying oysters for the first time at the county fair. All of this and more is what I’m going to think about whenever I reminisce about The Leader.

My writing skills have also improved here. I know how to write for a newspaper as opposed to writing for a research paper. A big thank you to Teresa Hammond for teaching me how to collect and use quotes to help in my articles.

I also had to learn how to ask the right questions to get to where I want to go. It probably helps that I’ve been naturally inquisitive all my life (at least, that’s what a lot of people have told me. Maybe that’s just a nice way to say that I was that annoying kid who probed “WHY?” all the time). That’s helped me learn how to properly get people to talk about their latest adventure, what they’re doing in their community, or what they hope to accomplish.

Finally, I think that a lot of the writing I’ve done is very applicable to life. It takes me a few tries to get where I want in an article. It starts out with finding quotes, then trying to make the quotes fit together like a story, and bridging the gap between each part of the interview. Then, the pieces that I’ve pre-written start to fit together like a puzzle once I’ve found my groove.

Essentially, I could never see the big picture about what I wanted to say until it was completely finished. In the same way, we go throughout our life with tiny little experiences – our quotes – and the story doesn’t fold out neatly right away. Sometimes, we don’t know where we’re headed or where we’re meant to be until we’re already there.

This is probably a little bit too introspective for an intern’s column. I’m rambling. There’s so much more that I could say but not enough space, memory, nor time to do it.

I feel like this is the end of a speech so all I can do is thank Marg for offering me this internship, for everyone at the office for making me feel so comfortable here, thank my grandparents who make sure to read every article I’ve written, thank my parents who are constantly supporting me through this, and thank you, the reader, for taking the time out of your day to read what I’ve written.

How ironic that just as summer is ending, it’s time for me to go.

Farewell for now, -Autumn.



Autumn Neal is an Oakdale High School Class of 2017 graduate and served a summer internship with The Oakdale Leader, The Escalon Times and The Riverbank News.