Those fish are bigger than me!

July 11, 2008

Now that I am about halfway through my internship (and since this week was less hectic than others have been) I thought I would talk a little more broadly about what this internship has taught me.

Photo by JESSIE COHEN/National Zoo Photographer
Discus fish

First, working for FONZ has reinforced my belief that I would be happier working in magazines than in newspapers. I like that there is lots of time to research the articles and go back and forth with editors to get the piece as close to perfect as possible. I also like the planning ahead nature of magazines. I like that we are having to decide what pieces to run in the November/December issue while simultaneously discussing the design of the July/August issue. There is just something in my personality (I am told it is the “Penichter gene” from my mom’s side of the family) that causes me to love being organized and making lists and planning things out ahead of time and therefore the magazine industry suits me quite well.

I have also discovered (or maybe I knew it all along, but now it has become blatantly obvious) that I have to be writing about topics that interest me. The Zoo is such an amazing place with more great story possibilities than can possibly ever  be covered. I definitely learn something new every day – in fact, I generally learn several somethings new. After even a short time here I know I would absolutely die of boredom at a publication that covered something of no interest to me – say car parts or banking.

One other thing that I’ve learned that is perhaps not so positive, but it’s good that I know now is that I write with a style that can only be described as “class paper.” I chose magazine journalism because of the availability of space and the opportunity to explore language and yet, when I start writing, I keep my creativity locked up and simply state the facts in a nice concise manner. I think that journalism students should be offered a course in creative writing as well as all of the classes that focus on spot news or even news features. Searching for the truth and informing the public of the happenings in the world doesn’t have to be done in an uninteresting way.

And now for something a little more fun: exploring new animal exhibits. This week I was able to visit Amazonia for the first time. Even in all of my Zoo visits prior to this internship I had always skipped Amazonia because it is sort of tucked away at the bottom of the hill and by the time I get to the bottom I am hot and sweaty and I want to see the sea lions and the spectacled bear, but I can pass on the fish and frogs. So, until this week I had absolutely no idea just how cool Amazonia is – it definitely should  not be skipped on Zoo visits!

Photo by JESSIE COHEN/National Zoo Photographer
Arapaima fish

Amazonia is home to some really cool creatures including all kinds of small, pretty fish and the biggest fish I have ever seen – arapaimas. I have heard people at the Zoo talk about the arapaimas and how they are super interesting, but I had no idea they were that large. They are at least five feet long and they have these amazing designs in the scales on the top of their head. It almost looks like knots in wood or maybe even Hieroglyphics. They are also sort of bent in the middle. That is, their bodies do not go straight back from their heads, but are crooked so that their tails are lower than their head. It gives them the appearance of having grown so long that they can’t support their tail weight anymore and it just sort of droops.

Another really cool thing about Amazonia is the rainforest. Visitors can stroll through an actual rainforest with animals such as monkeys and sloths. The plant life in the rainforest is just amazing too – there are hanging flowers and spiked trees just to name a few.


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