Nikki Treleaven didn’t think anything could top last year’s Field Period at a TV station in Florida, shadowing reporters and videographers out on live news shoots.
The senior organizational communication major reported for her first day of Field Period at Gulf Breeze News in Gulf Breeze, Fla. near Milton and Pensacola, on Jan. 3 and was promptly assigned to write a news story on a nearby wildlife sanctuary. It was published in the next edition of the weekly paper, under her own name. In news-speak, that’s known as a “byline,” and since then, Treleaven has had three more articles she wrote appear in print, with one even landing on the front page. Now, the possibilities look virtually endless to the Marcellus, N.Y. native.
“I love this internship so far, and I can’t wait to write more stories, and keep getting published,” said Treleaven, who was previously considering going into public relations after graduation. When she couldn’t find an internship with a PR firm for this Field Period, she opted to try print journalism instead.
Typically, her supervisor Vici PapaJohn or editor Joe Culpepper will give her some basic information and then Treleaven has to uncover more details through interviews by phone or in person and write the story. Once she submits it to the editors, they review her copy, make changes as needed, then write a headline and determine where to place it in an upcoming edition.
Her first article centered on the wildlife sanctuary’s need for increased supplies for animals at risk from the unusually cold temperatures this year. Then she wrote about a World War II plane exhibit at the Pensacola Naval Aviation Museum, followed by the front-page article on the $12,000 raised by the Salvation Army’s holiday Red Kettle drive at one local store.
She has also been in charge of the paper’s “On the Spot” feature, where five random people are asked the same question, with their photos and answers published together. In her second week, she had to ask whether people believed newly elected Gov. Rick Scott would pay more attention to northwest Florida and why.
“That one took me forever; not everyone wants to answer the question or get their picture taken. I asked at least a dozen people,” Treleaven said. “But it all worked out.”
Treleaven’s student adviser, Anita Chirco, professor of communication studies, said she’s not surprised to hear this Field Period has created cause for excitement.
“It’s been happening with Nikki since her freshman year. Every single time, she has something new and different and has done an incredibly superb job,” Chirco said. “She exemplifies what an experiential learner should be. She goes out to new and challenging positions in her field. She’s not afraid to take on new tasks and invariably, when she’s given a task to do, she does it well.”
So far, Treleaven has been focused on general news reporting, but hopes to work with a sports reporter soon. The Gulf Breeze features mostly high school sports, and with basketball season underway, that would likely be what she might cover, she said.
At a weekly paper, there is more time to craft and hone each article, but Treleaven said she still seems to be able to finish most stories within one day’s time. As such, she has the sense she might also enjoy writing for a daily paper, where the pace is apt to be busier. Her goal with her Field Periods was to try to experience jobs in a variety of communication areas, she said, and so far this one is trumping them all.
“This one is better because I’m getting to actually contribute to the newspaper,” Treleaven said. Everything – writing her own stories, conducting her own interviews, even sporting a press lanyard ID that states “reporter” under her name – is “very cool. I feel like I’m part of their team.”
Last year, she was able to occasionally record a voiceover for the TV station, but she never got to write a report for actual broadcast or step in front of the camera to share it, she said.
“I’ve been thinking it would be really cool if I could start out working at a newspaper, either this one – which would be amazing – or another daily or weekly newspaper,” Treleaven said. “All I know is I am really enjoying this a lot.”
It’s that spirit that has her adviser convinced Treleaven is taking the right steps toward her future vocation.
“I know her eyes are on sports journalism and she’s thinking that’s where she wants to be,” said Chirco. “I don’t know what she’s [ultimately] going to do, but I know Nikki will find something. Her work ethic is second to none.”