Web savvy

June 29, 2008

At the beginning of this week we received our magazine from the printers – a week early! We were really excited because it was both my and my editors first publication since we started working at FONZ a month ago.  It was really gratifying to be able to hold the final product of all our hard work.

Giant anteaters

I spent almost an entire day hand-delivering copies of ZooGoer  to the different offices and departments and mailing copies to the writers and other contributors.  Everyone seemed eager to see the changes that we’d made in the new issue.

Since the magazine was printed and on its way to the members, we needed to spend the rest of the week putting the new issue on the internet. I got to practice all of my dreamweaver and coding skills and I was able to work with the web editor to make sure that everything was input correctly. I really enjoyed this work because it was up to my discretion to decide which pictures to use and where to place them in the body of the text. It was so satisfying to see my small amount of HTML knowledge come in handy and turn out nice, clean web pages. I liked being able to spend time tweaking all of the pages to make sure they were exactly right and just how I wanted them.

I was also able to work on the updates for the Reptile Discovery Center web pages. I had to look up information about all of the species that are on display so that visitors to the website will be able to learn about the animals.

Sea lions, Summer and Calli

Of course, I also spent some time exploring the Zoo and visiting other animals. I have added another animal to my list of favorites. I had never seen a Giant anteater in person before this week and they are so interesting-looking. Their snouts are two feet long and they have huge, bristly tails that look like fans or brooms. The anteaters have definitely been added to my must-see list for the Zoo.

The other animal highlight of my week was going to visit the sea lions. The Zoo has two female sea lions and they are really playful. I spent one of my lunch breaks watching them swim and lounge in the sun and play with each other.


It’s been another busy week at the Zoo. We were able to OK the final design layout of ZooGoer and send it off to the printer on Monday – right on schedule! We were also able to go on several lunchtime visits around the zoo.

Orangutan, Kiko, on the O line

Earlier in the week I was able to fulfill one of my non-writing goals for the summer: I saw the orangutans traveling across the Zoo on their O line! The O line is a set of poles connected by ropes that stretch from the Great Ape House to the Think Tank exhibit. The orangutans are free to travel back and forth between 11 a.m. and 2 p.m. each day, but they generally go from the Great Ape House to Think Tank around 11 and then back again to the Great Ape House around two.

I was lucky enough to experience the crossing two days in a row. The first day we saw one of the smaller orangutans attempting the trek. She seemed a little hesitant and didn’t really swing across the lines, but walked across one rope while holding onto the other as if she were crossing a rickety old bridge.

The next day I saw two of the larger orangutans returning to the Great Ape House just before two. They did not seem nervous at all and alternated between walking and swinging their way between the two exhibit yards.

This week I also got to travel to Alexandria, VA to take a tour of the company where ZooGoer  is printed. My supervisor and I met with the owner of Stephenson Printing, Inc. and the project manager who oversees the printing of ZooGoer. We inadvertently timed our visit perfectly so that we were able to see the actual printing of our publication while we were there.  

Orangutan, Kiko, on the O line

We learned all about the printing process – from pre-printing and color correction, to plating, to the different types of printing that can be done, to mixing ink, to folding and binding, to packaging and mailing.

We also talked about the different options that are available in terms of “going green.” There are so many choices of recycled, and even non-tree, papers. There are also practices that can be put in place at the printer’s headquarters to reduce air pollution and the plant’s carbon footprint.

It was a very informative trip; I never thought about all of the different steps that a magazine has to go through before it lands on stores’ shelves. Or about the decisions that have to be made dealing with conservation and other practices that are important to organizations such as the Zoo.

Cockadoodle Zoo

June 14, 2008

This morning the Zoo hosted its annual member-appreciation event, Cockadoodle Zoo.  One Saturday each summer the Zoo opens early to FONZ members and allows them to see how the animals and keepers start their days. There are on-going events such as How Do You Zoo? in which kids get to dress up and see what it’s like to be a keeper, a vet, or a nutritionist at the zoo and there are also scheduled demonstrations and activities with the animals throughout the morning.

I was able to attend the event in order to help the Zoo’s photography intern document the morning. I had to be at the Zoo before 7:30 a.m., which meant getting up extra early, but it was worth it!

We were able to see the fishing cat, Alexis, pretend to be interested in the live fish in her pool only to go back and take a nap instead of satisfying her hunger. We also saw the six Asian small-clawed otter brothers playing in their exhibit and the lions and tigers lounging in the sun. We even saw all three giant pandas – Tian Tian, Mei Xiang and Tai Shan – munching on bamboo in their outdoor yards.

As part of Cockadoodle Zoo, visitors were invited to sneak a peek at the keeper area in the great cats exhibit. Since we were photographing the events of the morning that meant that we were able to go behind the scenes as well.

We rounded out our morning with a trip to the Kids’ Farm where young visitors got the chance to brush goats and donkeys and then a stop at the How Do You Zoo? area in the visitors center.

Even though I wasn’t attending the event as a journalist with the goal of writing something up, it was still really exciting to walk around the Zoo and say good morning to all the animals.

This week at ZooGoer  was a rollercoaster of rushing to get things done and waiting for designers and photographers to get back to us. Since we want the printers to receive all the materials they need by early next week, this week consisted of going back and forth with the designers – accepting layouts, making any editorial edits – and trying to obtain high resolution versions of all the pictures we wanted to run.

We would spend a day hurriedly emailing back and forth with photographers and sending all of the content to the designer and then we would spend a day waiting to get the layouts back from her.

Photo by JESSIE COHEN/National Zoo Photographer
Grand Cayman iguana

On one of our down days, my supervisor and I took a trip to the Reptile Discovery Center  to visit all of the animals and hopefully get some story ideas. Now, I have to admit that I am not the world’s biggest fan of snakes and I haven’t even gone into the RDC on my previous trips to the Zoo as a visitor, but there is a lot more than just snakes and it is really cool!

There are displays set up so that visitors can touch actual snake skin from several different species to see what it feels like and to help dispel the myth that snakes are slimy and I touched them all and it wasn’t so bad. What was really surprising to me was that a lot of the lizards’ skin looked like fabric the way it was wrinkled and folded.

There are so many colorful species and all of the animals at the RDC are so interesting looking. The Madagascar giant day gecko is a shade of neon green so bright it looks more like a plastic toy than a real lizard. And the yellow-and-blue poison frog looked like a child’s coloring book with several different colors on one little body.

I especially enjoyed the exhibits that were set up so as to allow visitors to see the animals above water, but also see them swimming below the surface of the water.  Turtles are so graceful when they swim.

Photo by JESSIE COHEN/National Zoo Photographer
Australian Snake-necked Turtle

This week I also got to participate in my first-ever read aloud copy editing session. I had never even heard of such a thing. There is a volunteer who has been coming in for over twenty years to do a read aloud – she learned the process at National Geographic and has brought it with her to the Zoo.

One morning we spent four hours with the volunteer while she read every single thing on the page for all 32 pages of the magazine. She read the masthead, page numbers, punctuation, italics – everything. At first I was skeptical of the process. I didn’t think we would find errors that couldn’t be caught by simply reading the copy to ourselves. But this process gave us a chance to discuss things like whether or not to hyphenate agro-chemicals and macro-invertebrates. It also helped to keep the style consistent throughout the entire publication.

Regardless of the process, it was also nice to have another set of eyes go over the issue – particularly someone who hadn’t already looked over each piece numerous times. She was particularly helpful in ensuring that the photo captions were correct and made sense with the images.

Overall, it was an interesting experience (and worthwhile, since we caught several errors), but not necessarily something I would run out and institute in every newsroom or magazine – you definitely have to have the time and the patience to get through it.

These first few days of the internship have been a crazy whirlwind of getting to know the staff, the policies and procedures, and of course, the animals.

ZooGoer is a bi-monthly magazine and is generally shipped out just before the first of the month for which it was published. That means that I started working right at crunch time for the July/August 2008 issue. I jumped right into copy editing, factchecking, and photo gathering. Besides the articles that run in each issue there are also other editorial pieces – such as updates about zoo happenings and the table of contents that need to be put together.

Giant panda – Mei Xiang

So far I have had the opportunity to help out, in some capacity, on every single element of the magazine which has been both exciting and enlightening. There are so many things to think about besides writing! Particularly because my supervisor, the editor of ZooGoer, is the only staff member working on the magazine, she has to think about budget issues in terms of buying photography and even paying for the postage to mail the magazine to members.

Not only have I gotten to work with Communications staff, but I have also had an opportunity to meet curators, directors, vets, etc. I even met with the zoo photographers to discuss a project and was able to peruse their files and check out hundreds of pictures! In the short time I’ve been here I’ve also gotten to meet with the animal keepers and talk with them about their roles in the animals’ lives and what their jobs entail on a day-to-day basis. Their jobs are so interesting! Imagine getting to hang out with wallabies or sloth bears all day long – how cool.

Of course, I couldn’t possibly work at the zoo without spending time with the animals themselves. My supervisor and I have made it our mission to visit a new animal, or group of animals, every day during lunch.

Asian elephant – Ambika

To date I have introduced myself to the birds both inside and outside the Bird House (I even saw a peacock showing off its feather train just yesterday!), the Asian elephants – Ambika, Shanthi and Kandula, all of the species in the Small Mammal House (where I must admit I gained a new favorite animal every time I peeked into a new exhibit), and the giant pandas – Tian Tian, Mei Xiang and Tai Shan. The pandas remain my absolute favorite animal even though they did not seem interested in showing off at all and spent the entirety of my visit lounging around their habitat.

When I decided to come to American for grad school a big part of the decision was the location – Washington, D.C. – and the availability of internships because of that location. I was told that there was roughly six possible internships available for each student at AU – how could I pass that up?

Even knowing the number of opportunities in D.C. I never imagined I would end up at the National Zoo.

I started looking for internships at the beginning of my second semester – around January or February. I knew that most of the major publications like the Washington Post and USA Today had super early deadlines -October or November – but I hadnt really planned on working at those publications anyway. Still, I was nervous that I would be too late to find anything worthwhile.

I started my search by going to the Web sites of publications that I thought I might like to work for and searching for their internship opportunities. Then I searched the Career Center’s internship listings on CareerWeb. I also looked on job search sites like Journalismjobs.com.

The most well-known publications like Atlantic Monthly and Newsweek didnt list their internships on CareerWeb or Journalismjobs.com, but that didnt stop me from sending applications. I found two good possibilities on the CareerWeb listing – Northern Virginia Magazine and ZooGoer. I also found several decent, less-popular possibilities – smaller, regional newspapers and trade publications on journalismjobs.com. I discovered from the job-listing sites that there were opportunities outside of the obvious major magazines and newspapers.

In all, I think I sent out at least 20 applications for internships in the D.C./Baltimore area.

I was called for a couple of interviews, but ultimately I decided to take the internship at ZooGoer. It actually wasn’t a hard decision at all – it was a chance to work on a magazine with a small staff (which hopefully translates into lots of opportunity for me to take on responsibilities such as writing or researching) and be at the zoo every day, hopefully visiting the animals on a regular basis. It was the perfect combination for me and my interests.