Chris Essig

Walkthroughs, tips and tricks from a data journalist in eastern Iowa

The last year…

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Well, well, well. Now that I’m inching ever so close to the real world, I figure I better keep this blog updated. Yeah, I told myself this when I started the blog, but I really hope I keep the blog update to date this time. Anyways, here’s a quick update of what I’ve been up to:

1. I’m currently enrolled at the Public Affairs Reporting program at the University of Illinois. I don’t mean to brag, but the program is wonderful. Here’s a quick summary: PAR is a one-year master’s program that focuses the 20-some-odd grad students on covering–you guessed it–public affairs. The focal point of the program is the spring semester, where the students intern with an Illinois news bureau at the Statehouse, covering the daily madness inside the state capitol. We receive 15 credit hours for the internship and by the time we are ready to graduate in May, we will have a robust 40 hours under our belts. The first semester, by contrast, was spent in the classroom, basically prepping us for the internship. Before the semester came to a close, my classmates and I interviewed with a variety of news outlets that have a bureau inside the Capitol newsroom, including the Chicago Sun-Times, Chicago Tribune, The Daily Herald, Gatehouse Media, St. Louis Dispatch and Lee Enterprises. We were assigned a bureau via a compatibility test, which I can only assume is same test utilized by

2. After the compatibility test ran its course, I was assigned with Lee Enterprises. I’m was–and still am–excited about my assignment. For those unfamiliar with Lee, it’s a national newspaper publishing company with newspapers coast to coast. But because I’ll be reporting on Illinois politics, we focus on five, fine, Downstate newspapers: Quad-City Times in northwestern Illinois, the Pantagraph in Bloomington, the Herald & Review in Decatur, the Journal-Gazette Times Courier in Mattoon and the Southern Illinoisian in Carbondale. We cover a lot of area and a lot of lawmakers. The blog will keep you up-to-date with all the fine work we are putting together in Springfield.

3. Over the summer, I interned with a Lee Enterprise publication: the JG-TC in Mattoon. I was a general assignment reporter, which meant I covered everything from the state’s astronomical budget deficit to the trade secrets of a 13-year-old wether raiser. I also produced a few videos and a full scale Adobe Flash multimedia package, which can be viewed on my web site: Thankfully the multimedia skills I developed during my time working at the Daily Eastern News were put to good use over the summer. And my reporting skills vastly improved because of the internship. I gave much credit to the JG-TC for not only helping me land my current internship but getting in the PAR program as well.

5. I graduated from EIU in May. I’m more than happy about being at UIS, but I will always miss my original alma mater. What a wonderful four years. I still visit often because a number of my friends still have a few semesters to go. But the days of residence in Charleston are over…I guess we all have to grow up sometime.

5. The Lee internship started up this week, so I’m just getting settled in. Be sure to stay tuned for updates from the internship! It should be a wild ride…

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