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Elaina Zachos

National Geographic,
National Geographic Society
Rochester Hills, MI
University of Pittsburgh

   What’s it like to work at an award-winning science publication with some of the best photojournalism ever? Well, it’s awesome. My supervisor is a senior text editor for the magazine, so technically I work on the publication’s print side. However, by working with other editors and writers, I’ve gotten the chance to contribute to the website’s news section and photo galleries. For this position, you need to have the initiative to pitch stories and bug editors for tasks. One of my goals starting off was to get something in the print magazine, so I’m working on a write-up that’ll be published early next year.

   I’ve edited features and done research for my co-workers, digging into sustainability in India or identifying religious groups in Israel or helping out with international editions. I also wanted to publish online and accumulate clips. Working with website staff allowed me to churn out a story or two almost every week and record Facebook Live videos. I’ve also worked with photo editors to caption online galleries.

   The day starts with a 9 a.m. digital meeting. Unless I have a particular project I’m working on, I’ll scope out stories until 5 p.m. This requires a lot of emailing, international calling, and combing through articles and studies. Occasionally, I’ll attend meetings for our beats to discuss and pitch stories. My favorite meetings are the photo reviews; basically, you sit in a darkened room for half an hour looking at projected photographs for an upcoming feature while the photographer narrates the story.

   Before starting the internship, I was expecting to get most of my experience working on the print magazine. Since Nat Geo can plan features up to two years in advance, it’s difficult to squeeze an intern’s piece into the magazine. This is understandable, but I wish I could have gotten more experience with the steps involved in making a physical magazine. I also wish I had gotten to work more closely with the graphics and video departments. Highs of the program are seeing the impact of some of my pieces. I wrote a story about zoo animals starving in Venezuela, and readers shared the article tens of thousands of times on social media. 

Societal Pittsburgher, native Michigander, Nutmegger by default. A writing and linguistics student who enjoys coffee, travel and bad puns. 

Some of the animal rights organizations sent me statements in response to the piece. I also really enjoyed doing Facebook Live videos, because I’ve never had that mini broadcasting experience before. Lows include writing trend pieces that I didn’t have any particular interest in, like one on animal poop and another about Pokemon Go. But hey, someone’s gotta do those. The NYC orientation interested me in the multimedia and digital realms of the magazine industry; I was able to apply this at Nat Geo by doing Facebook Live videos. The weekly lunches were helpful for networking and casual conversation about a shared interest in journalism. I immediately clicked with my ASME Next mentor and made connections with my co-workers and journalists at other magazines; beyond the office, we’ve gone out to restaurants and bars and hung out on weekends. Through the program, I’ve learned how important and frequent meetings to discuss stories and analytics are. Months of planning and thousands of dollars go into each issue. National Geographic’s office is full of incredibly smart people who are simply passionate about their nerdy interests, myself included.