From intern to breaking news reporter

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For Quinn Wilson, taking advantage of as many internship opportunities as possible — and pushing himself to try new things — led to a career he hadn’t imagined, but now loves.

Wilson graduated from Fontbonne’s Department of Humanities with a Professional Writing degree in 2019. He accepted his first full-time journalism job a week later and now covers breaking news and crime for The Bakersfield Californian. (He starts a new adventure in East Los Angeles as a reporter for the Inland Valley Daily Bulletin in a few weeks.)

Quinn Wilson
Quinn Wilson graduated from Fontbonne University with a degree in Professional Writing in May 2019.

In his time at The Bakersfield Californian, Wilson has tracked crime statistics, attended press conferences and covered a wide variety of news stories. During his first week, he had to report on a triple stabbing outside of a local high school. He has also covered the coronavirus, protests, wildfires, a rally held by President Trump outside the Bakersfield airport and more.

“I’ve been able to be a part of history unfolding,” Wilson says. “I never really know what I’m going to do going into each week.”

Every week, Wilson writes at least five 600–700-word articles, in addition to numerous public safety briefs based on releases from the police department. Since starting at The Bakersfield Californian, he’s written over 200 stories.

“It keeps me busy,” Wilson says. “The newsroom I work in is really talented, too, so being the youngest person there forces me to rise to a higher level to keep up with all of them.”

Wilson has done more than just keep up — he’s taken a passion for storytelling and strong work ethic and used them to draw attention to important issues in his community. Sometimes the subjects he covers are more difficult than others (he once saw a man at a protest get killed a few feet in front of him), but the experience has been invaluable.

Finding a Place at Fontbonne

Part of what prepared Wilson for success in his current career was his time at Fontbonne University.

“I went to high school in St. Louis, and I was pretty set on leaving,” Wilson says. “But then I visited Fontbonne and was pleasantly surprised.”

He came to Fontbonne as a student athlete, lived in the dorms, served as an RA and eventually became involved in several leadership roles. The small, tight-knit community and laid-back atmosphere allowed him to build relationships across campus.

“Everyone tends to be really friendly, and it was easy for me to meet and talk to people,” Wilson says. “It took a lot of the fear and anxiety out of the college experience.”

Internships

While he was at Fontbonne, Wilson also prioritized finding professional internships. He started in the admissions office and eventually interned at the Riverfront Times, River Styx, the Arts and Education Council, Fox 2 and Sauce Magazine as well. He always knew that he loved writing, but his experience as an intern led him to discover a passion for journalism.

Quinn Wilson Reporting
Wilson credits his internship experience with helping prepare him for the demands of working as a full-time journalist.

“I definitely think having an internship pays off,” Wilson says. “I did a lot of unpaid internships, and I know that’s difficult — it was extremely difficult for me. But from my experience, it’s definitely worth it. I’m a big proponent of internships if you can make it work.”

To find opportunities that were the right fit for him, Wilson researched companies and organizations he was interested in and found out what time of year they typically posted openings. He also received recommendations from faculty on campus. Wilson took courses in English and writing that helped him develop the skills he needed to succeed in his work, but he also took classes in subjects that interested him but weren’t directly related to his major. Some of his favorites were courses in metalsmithing, alternative religions (e.g. cults) and the impact of Michael Brown’s killing and subsequent protests in Ferguson.

“By my junior year, I kind of had the same group of five professors,” Wilson says. “They were mostly in the English, History and Communication departments, so I established a core of people and got to know them pretty well. I wasn’t always great about asking for help, but when I did they were very helpful.”

Risk and Failure

Wilson says that he learned a lot from his time at Fontbonne, including how to fail. At times, he took on more responsibility than he should have, and it was overwhelming. Those experiences grew him as a leader and helped build his confidence. He’s a firm believer in becoming comfortable with the risk of failure and trying things anyway — especially within the safety net of a university like Fontbonne.

“I think students should try to do as many different things as they can,” he says. “For me, I tried to change my surroundings every year. I never did the same thing one year after another. Trying new things, trying things that are intimidating and failing — I think it’s very helpful in life.”

 

Interested in reading more of Wilson’s work? Check out some of his favorite pieces from the last year!

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