Letter provided by the Chico State University
October 3, 2006
The Washington Post
1150 15th St., NW
Washington, D.C. 20071
Dear Selection Committee:
The Modesto Bee’s biggest story of the summer came in with major attribution problems, and it was my duty to fix them. I had been an intern on the copy desk for a little more than a month when a police report came in about a possible murder-suicide that occurred in the twilight hours of the Fourth of July. The next day, a reporter turned in an analysis with sentences such as “… he could only guess as to why Trevor Branscum, after an argument with his wife, would return to his home to kill his four young children before taking his own life.”
After conferring with my boss, I thoroughly added attribution, even at the expense of the story’s flow. To some, this approach may seem overly guarded, but remember that at one point, John Mark Karr looked just as guilty of killing JonBenet Ramsey as Branscum later proved to be of killing his children and himself.
Thanks to its editors, The Washington Post continuously succeeds at the high-stakes game that is covering the nation’s capital. These editors make sure emotional stories, like those of Karr and Branscum, stick to the facts. They know the difference between “hordes” and “hoards.” They make changes objectively and don’t introduce errors.
I don’t have an Ivy League school on my resume, but I continue to earn high positions at young ages. In my first semester of college, I was the only freshman working on the campus newspaper. The next year, I was the only sophomore at California State University, Chico, to get an internship at a daily paper. I’m the youngest intern that my boss has had in her 16 years at The Bee and only the second one she has considered hiring fresh out of college.
When I read a Post article, I see the subtle fingerprints of the copy desk. A recent article referred to “former president Bill Clinton.” Most professional copy editors would capitalize the “p” without a second thought, but the Post copy desk realizes “former president” is a false title.
The Washington Post unseated a president. Its columnists are respected nationwide. Its headlines are the “instant history” that Bill Walsh talks about on his Web site. While most newspapers embrace fluffy headlines more and more, The Post continues to write straightforward ones that can be understood decades later. On the day that The Modesto Bee ran the headline “New threat in skies,” The Post went with “Plot to Bomb U.S.-Bound Jets Is Foiled: Britain Arrests 24 Suspected Conspirators.” The Post does things the right way, and I’m smart, passionate and resourceful enough to be part of the team.
Student name withheld