My summer internship at The Gleaner :Kerese Oakley-Williams reflects
If someone would have told me that by the age of eighteen I would have been allowed to have a summer experience of a lifetime, I would laugh. It’s not every day that the national newspaper offers you an internship, but after a meaningful, yet spontaneous conversation about my involvement at the St Andrew High newspaper, the door to writing for The Gleaner as a summer intern would become open to me.
Sharing my thoughts and passion through the written word has always been a deep interest of mine. I can distinctly recall intentionally writing my first business letter to the principal of my preparatory school sharing my thoughts on an institutional policy. In fact, my grandfather, Leo Oakley, was a great writer, and I was inspired by him through my mother to always remember that words are beautiful and withhold a lot of power. It is no surprise, therefore, that as time went on, I continued to pursue my passion for writing through not only publishing my first book at the age of 16, but also revamping and serving my high school newspaper committee as co-editor-in-chief and later as editor-in-chief.
HIT THE GROUND RUNNING
Throughout my eight-week journey at The Gleaner not only was I given the opportunity to meet and interact with people from many different walks of life, but I was also challenged and stretched beyond my borders. Prior to my internship which was filled with fun and interactive, yet demanding tasks of writing articles daily for publication, I originally classified myself as a casual writer. This meant that writing was a passion of mine, but it was not something that I did every day. That, however, quickly changed as, on my very first day of reporting for duty, I was given the task of contacting a famous Soca DJ and turning in my first article later that evening.
The process of conducting interviews and writing articles became more manageable over time as I quickly began learning the rules, styles, and techniques for writing for The Gleaner. One of my favourite articles that I wrote was the story of the young engineer and female activist Chelsea Wright, titled, ‘Chelsea Wright engineering a more gender-equal world’ . Wright was one of the many interesting interviewees and personalities that I interacted with during my time. I was allowed to speak to and learn the stories of many hardworking and talented people across Jamaica. In addition, I was able to speak to persons who held positions of high honour and distinction such as the Canadian Supermodel and TV Host, Stacey McKenzie, as well as Jamaica’s ambassador to Japan, Shorna Kay Richards. The fun did not stop there; I was also able to sit in the very same room as Jamaican-born Top Boy actor Micheal Ward while he was being interviewed.
I was mentored and guided by competent editors and writers in the field of journalism and media production. The lifestyle and entertainment editor Jamila Litchmore and assistant online and lifestyle editor Debra Edwards took me under their wings and taught me. Many days upon going to work I would engage in conversations with both about topics that would expand and broaden my knowledge and thinking. The two motivated and inspired me to better myself not only as a writer, but also as a person.
Edwards was more than just a boss to me. She made sure that I developed and honed my writing skills, and I was also inspired by her story of becoming a journalist. One of my favourite moments of learning with her was attending The Jamaica Food and Drink, Shaken and Stirred event. Throughout that night I had fun and tried new things while learning how journalists conduct fieldwork and review the lifestyle events that they attend.
The Gleaner is truly a place where life unfolds. Many wise and resilient writers on the news floor continuously poured into me and shared various lessons that they had learnt not only about being a journalist, but also as human beings going through their journey in life. Although my journey as an intern has come to an end, many lessons that I learned will forever be a core memory within my heart. I will also continue to treasure the amazing personalities that I met and became friends with during my time at the company.
Currently, I have a new and exciting chapter in my life at The University of the West Indies, where I am completing a bachelor’s degree in chemistry and management. Although I am currently pursuing a degree in a completely different field, I do wish to continue to develop my love for writing. I am deeply grateful to The Gleaner for giving me an experience of a lifetime, but above all else, I thank God for opening the door and blessing me with this opportunity.