2014 Pulitzer Prize Winner

Murderers to manufacturing

Published: June 11, 2014, 5:38 pm, by interns

by Elise Schmelzer

Gazette business intern, Summer 2014

“What in the world is infill,” I grumbled to myself in the middle of my phone interview.

My source was unaware of my scramble to find a definition outside of Wikipedia, but I had lost everything else she said after mentioning how infill could affect my newly adopted city.

Day two of business reporting was … progressing.

Months ago, when Managing Editor Joanna Bean asked me what kind of reporting I wanted to do this summer, I wasn’t sure how to respond. I had just spent the last year reporting and editing for the metro desk at the Columbia Missourian, focused mostly on cops and courts. I loved those beats because they were always interesting and changing. More importantly, the things that happened in the grey court rooms and in the proximity of police sirens almost always directly and immediately affected people.

I saw a Desert Storm veteran testify, tears in his eyes, about how the court’s veteran program saved his life. I told reporters to “wait until the body comes out.” I saw a mother crying on the stand when asked to talk about her 8-year-old’s rape. I saw a man, convicted of murder and sentenced to 40 years, walk free after 10 because the prosecutor withheld evidence that could have proved his innocence.

I loved the beat, but it was wearing on me. It was death and murder and child molestation.

It was time to add new skills to my never-filled toolbox and try a beat that wouldn’t be less of an emotional roller coaster.

It’s a good thing Joanna couldn’t see my face when I suggested – she would’ve known I was terrified.

I’m still terrified. Almost two weeks into my internship the topics I’m asked to cover are still endlessly intimidating. What do I know about downtown residential planning?

But I’m learning so much more from this strange beat than I would’ve had I stayed with the normal deputies and depositions. Every morning I wake up nervous about what the day will bring. Every evening I proudly walk the two blocks to my car.

Infill: When urban land is re-purposed for new construction.

I didn’t use the internet for that one.

Elise Schmelzer is an undergraduate student at the University of  Missouri from Austin, Texas. Follow her on Twitter @eliseschmelzer.