By Rachyl Houterman
For Leader-Telegram reporter Lauren French, journalism wasn’t always on the list of future career options. For her, she said, it was a “slow-burn love story.”
In May 2016, French graduated from the University of Wisconsin-Eau Claire, where as a freshman, she began as a biology major. It was something she excelled at, she said, but after realizing it didn’t make her happy, she changed her path.
She tried out public relations and enrolled in the beginning journalism class, which at the time was a required course for the public relations major. In this class, French discovered her passion for journalism.
“I think I just started working on some stories that felt really powerful even if they were just in class, you know, talking to local business owners about why their business is important to them,” French said. “Small stories like that really made me start to think about how much journalism opens your eyes to the world, and once I realized that I just kind of fell in love with it.”
Following her junior year, French acquired a summer internship at the Steven’s Point Journal. During her senior year, French was selected for the Steven J. Koepp Journalism Fellowship to spend three weeks as a paid intern for Time Inc. in New York City. French also worked as a part-time reporter for the Eau Claire Leader-Telegram and as the editor-in-chief of The Spectator, the UW-Eau Claire student newspaper.
Following her graduation, French completed a summer internship at the Leader-Telegram. In the fall of 2016, she took a full-time position with the Leader-Telegram as a general assignment reporter.
On the day of the job shadow, French had a relatively quiet day at the office. She was assigned a story regarding a bill being circulated by Republican legislators to expand broadband coverage in rural Wisconsin. Her editor requested that she find out how it affected schools in those rural areas.
One important piece of advice French had regarding this was to always be sure to ask veteran reporters for possible contacts they may have for a story. Often times they have tips and information on who to contact.
French showed me a few articles she’s written, including a profile piece she wrote about three women who left their religious colony for the city.
Like myself, French said she initially had doubts about her ability to be a journalist because she considered herself to be a shy person. However, she said she overcame this fear with practice.
“I think having those doubts about yourself is normal, but just forcing yourself to do something even if it feels nerve-wracking is really important,” French said.
Overall, I walked away with a better sense of the daily life of a journalist. I had a great time learning more about the reporting and writing that goes into a story, and I’m really excited to be in the field working as a journalist one day.