Hooked on journalism

by Katie Oyan

I was young, green and fresh out of college when I went through the Chips Quinn Scholars program in the spring of 2000. Orientation was held in San Francisco, which, by itself, was an exciting experience for a girl from Kadoka, S.D. I remember the all-star lineup of speakers and feeling lucky to be there, and trying to take as many notes and ask as many questions as possible. I’m glad I had the presence of mind to do that; many of the lessons I learned in those sessions I still put to use today.

My internship after orientation was at a great newspaper, the Contra Costa Times in Walnut Creek, Calif. The crime reporter there let me shadow her early in my internship. It was exciting to listen to the police scanner and jump in her car to drive to a crime scene. Her ability to read a fold-out map while driving really fast impressed me. She taught me how to be sensitive to crime victims and to always keep a change of clothes in the car because, as a reporter, you never know where you might end up.

Later that spring a gruesome triple homicide in our circulation area became national news, and my editor sent me to knock on doors in the victims’ neighborhood. I ended up contributing about a paragraph to our coverage, but I was proud just to be part of such a big story.

Also during my internship, I got to ride in a van with Green Party presidential nominee Ralph Nader and interview a Cirque du Soleil performer. I apparently hit the wrong button on my digital recorder during that interview because I couldn’t replay even a second of recorded sound. I panicked, then used the few notes I took as a backup to salvage the story and get one of my first A1 clips.

I learned so much that spring, including the importance of mastering the digital recorder and investing in a good GPS — and just how hooked I was on being a journalist. The CQS program and the people I met through it opened doors for me and gave me the skills and confidence I needed to continue along this path.

Being a Chipster set me on a course that has led to an exciting, challenging and fulfilling career. I wouldn’t trade that for anything. Thank you, CQS, and happy anniversary.

Katie Oyan is night supervisor for The Associated Press in Phoenix, Ariz.


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