I’m writing this final blog post from the comfort of my own home back in Minnesota. It’s crazy to think that ten weeks in Atlanta have come and gone.
It was an absolute joy to work at CNN this summer. The things I learned, the people I met, the experiences I had, I will never forget them.
Key highlights of the summer include: “Shooting the Hooch” (tubing down the Chattahoochee River); dominating trivia every week with the Turn-Terns; hunting all the tiny doors in the city (check out #tinydooratl for more info!); exploring all of the different museums, like the Jimmy Carter Center, History Center, College Football Hall of Fame, and several others; and just about every single day at work.
I wouldn’t change a single thing about this experience. I grew not only as a person, but as an academic, an employee, and an American citizen. I got to experience living in the South for the first time, and learn more about my personal research and career aspirations. I learned how to work outside of an academic environment, and continue to work with materials available to a wide audience, which is something that I am truly passionate about.
Thank you, CNN, for the summer of a lifetime. I will never forget it.
This was it. The final week of the internship at CNN. The week has by no means been easy. From the aftermath of the shootings in El Paso and Dayton this weekend, to trying to finish up any and all projects that I have been working on, there has been no letting up. But, on a lighter note, so many things have happened!
First, an update on the Impossible Task. I managed to figure out the dataframe issues I was having. So, I was then able to test it on a sample set to see if I could start dropping rows based on certain conditions. And I could. Which means, that challenge that I accepted a few weeks ago? CHALLENGE COMPLETED. What I think is so cool is that none of us thought that this program could work. We thought we could try a bunch of different things, but the end result would not affect anything. And then it ended up working. This program, along with my web scraping project, are by far my two greatest accomplishments of the summer.
I had a meeting with the archives director Friday afternoon to show him how the Impossible Task program worked. I did tell him that I was shocked it actually worked, but I am so glad that it does. I walked him through exactly what each section of code meant and what it did to and for the information we wanted to pull. He said that it all looked great, and he is looking forward to digging into it more and potentially implementing it for his team. He said the work I did will more than likely make their jobs a lot easier. And that makes me feel incredibly proud.
I also had my last meetings with my supervisors to recap everything that I did over the summer. They reassured me that everything I did this summer will be beneficial to the future of the department. I guess I never realized just how much work I did this summer until it was all said and done. I think a big reason for that is because it has been such enjoyable work. I am doing the things I love and seeing the difference it makes in real time.
We also had a big internship send off party on Thursday over at the Techwood campus (Cartoon Network, TCM, and all those Warner Media company offices are over there). All the interns from across the company got together to play games, eat snacks and ice cream, and have one last group bonding session before we all head our separate ways this summer.
I made sure to walk through a few special places at CNN Center before I walked out the doors. The Newsroom, in particular; the terrace, where I would eat lunch with my friends; and just standing in the atrium looking at everything. I have learned so much through this internship and I am so grateful for the time that I have spent here.
The second to last week of the internship has been a whirlwind. The biggest thing we worked on this week was finalizing and presenting our intern group projects. I had mentioned in a previous post that we were all assigned to groups on the very first day of the program. Throughout the summer, we developed new ideas to pitch to various CNN executives at the presentation that occurred on Wednesday.
Our presentation went as well as it could have, and that is all I can ask for. It was very fun and interesting to also hear the pitches of other groups and see how our ideas were either similar or different.
More than anything, though, I have been working on the Impossible Task. As an update, I finally figured out how to parse the information I wanted from the generated XML file and input the results into a spreadsheet. What I am hung up on now is how to start deleting rows we know have content that determines we cannot archive that item. Let me explain:
A “slug” is a name given to a media file. It helps us determine what the file is about. However, if the slug is “kill kill kill,” that means that we no longer need that file. So, I am now trying to find these slugs in the spreadsheet and delete the corresponding rows. In doing so, I create a list of items that we are very, very confident will need to be archived, thus making the lives of the selection archivists easier.
That is part of the reason why we have been referring to it as the Impossible Task. We are not sure if the code will work, or if we will do anything to help the archivists. But I said challenge accepted, and I want to try and make as much headway on it as possible before I leave next week. The next item on the list: what is a data frame, and can I do anything with it in relation to the Impossible Task?
So many things have happened this week. In the news, Britain elected a new Prime Minister, Robert Mueller gave his testimony to Congress regarding his report on Russian collusion in the 2016 Presidential election, and the Governor of Puerto Rico stepped down amidst the RickyLeaks controversy.
For the CNN Intern program, however, it was Make You Matter Week. Throughout the week, we had various workshops, lectures, and social events meant to help prepare us for a future at CNN, or in the media industry in general. I ended up going to 3: one presentation on financial literacy (the most helpful and relevant to all of our futures), one on CNNAIR (the most entertaining, as we got to learn all about how CNN uses drone technology), and the breakfast social over at Techwood (where we got Waffle House, Caribou Coffee, and got to tour some of the studios for Warner Media Broadcasting, like NBA on TNT). It has been great to get together with my fellow interns and do other things than our usual work tasks.
On the work front, as one of my supervisors is moving up to the Data Science department, I have had a few of his duties transferred over to me for the last few weeks that I am here. That means that the Impossible Task has officially been transferred over (we have all resorted to calling it that). I have also been taught more about migrations between our platforms, intensity configuration, and continuing to work on the tasks I already have. It has certainly been a week.
More than anything, I have been consumed with the Impossible Task. I have learned more about API configuration and how they work. I also sat in on a call that was talking about visual recognition software for videos, which was exciting and different. More than anything, though, I want to see about any headway I can make on the Impossible Task. It will all depend on how much I can do in these last couple of weeks.
If you were to go on CNN.com right now, at this very minute, you would see at the top of the page next to “Trending” something about the Puerto Rico investigation. If you are not following the news as closely as I do these days, this is referring to how the people of Puerto Rico are calling for the resignation of their governor after his private chat messages were leaked, containing profane comments about people within their own government, other governments, you name it.
The reason why you see several stories associated with the larger topic is because we generated a storyline tag for the protests. When storylines are created, we apply them to any article, video, or gallery published on CNN.com related to that storyline. They are specific to a given topic or event, and the terms associated with it are unique to that storyline. For example, with the 2019 FIFA Women’s World Cup this year, the terms were relevant to France, this iteration of the World Cup, and other things unique to this event.
What is crazy to believe is that this all happened on Friday. We have a certain threshold we maintain for when we generate a new storyline. When it became clear that we were going to cross that threshold, I began gathering evidence for the new storyline: 2019 Puerto Rico Protests. I noted special phrases and names, like “RickyLeaks” and “Ricky Resign.” I also gathered words and phrases that were used frequently and would be specific to this instance, like “Puerto Rico Governor Resignation” and similar terms. It was a great opportunity to practice the taxonomy language, relating terms and giving evidence to the topic. As new content is generated, these terms and evidence change pertaining to their relevance to the storyline.
In terms of fun and exciting things, I got to visit one of the studios here at CNN Center. Myself and one of the other library interns got the chance to duck down to the CNNI offices, see their newsroom, and the studio that they have on-site. The CNNI studio hosts shows relatively frequently, as sometimes the shows are based in London, but other times they are here in Atlanta. We got to take pictures at the desk, in front of the green screen, and see how a studio looks when it is all lit up for a show.
We then went down the hall to the control room to see how the CNNI show teams operate. It was amazing. The wall of screens, the live conference calls with people around the world, the show runners barking orders into headsets. It was incredibly electric. I just had to stand there and watch. Where I work, I do not get to see how the television side of CNN works. So to spend half an hour witnessing what some of the other interns are doing was a fun change of pace for me.
Next week, I should have more updates about the Puerto Rico events. The impossible task has taken a back seat this week, as it happens in news. Our priorities are constantly shifting depending on the climate of the world, bringing light to things that should be highlighted and tabling things that are losing their relevancy.
Something that is very important to me when it comes to a new academic or work experience is making sure that I embrace the culture of the city where this new life experience is happening. In this case, it is the wonderful city of Atlanta, Georgia.
Fast Facts (thank you, Wikipedia and Atlanta government website): Atlanta, the capital of Georgia, is home to about 500,000 people. It is the birthplace of Martin Luther King, Jr. It was basically burned to the ground during the American Civil War. It also hosts the headquarters of Warner Media (A.K.A., CNN, Adult Swim, Cartoon Network, Turner Classic Movies, etc.), UPS, Home Depot, Coca-Cola, and Delta Airlines. Not to mention the busiest international airport in the world, Hartsfield-Jackson.
There are probably about 45 interns that work just for CNN here in Atlanta, so it was really easy for me to settle in with a good group of friends. There is a team of us that gets together to do trivia once a week. And we are pretty good, considering I think we have placed in the top 3 all but once.
I have also made it my mission to go exploring every weekend. Sometimes I do it with a group of friends, and other times I am perfectly happy going alone. Thus far, I have been to the Center for Civil and Human Rights, the Georgia Aquarium, Stone Mountain, the King Center, and Atlantic Station. I also went and saw Come From Away, the touring Broadway musical about Gander, Newfoundland right after the events of the September 11th terrorist attack (I would definitely recommend listening to the soundtrack on your music platform of choice!).
Still on my list are Ponce City Market, the Jimmy Carter Presidential Library and Museum, the Little Five Points neighborhood, Atlanta History Center (and Margaret Mitchell House), and the Piedmont Park Farmer’s Market. It is a good thing the weekend has two days, since this is a lot to accomplish in the next three weeks!
One of the great things about interning here in Atlanta is the Atlanta After 5 summer intern program. Warner Media sponsors the interns to participate in this event that allows us to meet other interns from other companies in the city and explore everything Atlanta has to offer together. Through the program, I have been on a restaurant tour of the Belt Line (Atlanta’s best walking trail), an Atlanta Braves baseball game, and played kickball at one of the originating fields of Atlanta soccer. These Thursday events have been a great way for me to hang out with my fellow interns outside of work.
Atlanta is also an amazing place for restaurants. We have gone out to brunch at a new restaurant just about every weekend. I went to this restaurant, Mary Mac’s Tea Room, which is a staple for traditional southern food. I had enough leftovers for two more dinners! And they truly are right: the peach is the staple of the state of Georgia. I have had the best peach cobblers of my entire life in this city.
It is truly hard to believe I only have three weeks left in this wonderful city. It has been everything I could have wanted and more. From exploring with friends, to visiting new aspects of CNN (shout-out to the Newsroom folks – the work you do is incredible), to coming home happy yet exhausted at the end of the day, this truly has been an incredible summer and I am so glad to have spent it in Atlanta.
This week, we have decided to undertake a seemingly impossible task. We want to use machine learning to help make the lives of our video archive selection librarians easier.
Here at CNN, we have both production and archive computer servers. Content moved back and forth between these servers as it is needed. When it comes to archiving content, however, the entire process is incredibly extensive. Our archivists follow a 24-step protocol for determining what gets archived and what gets not.
My boss and I are trying to see if there is a way we can simplify this process. See if there is a way we can generate a filter on the production server content that helps block items we know we will not archive and potentially eliminate a few steps for the archival team. Now, we are very aware that our efforts may not amount to anything. When you are working for a company as large as CNN and our archived content comes from bureaus around the world, it is very difficult to ensure everyone is on the same page when it comes to documentation. Different show teams want different clips and only want their clips archived, when in reality that is just not conducive to store the same clip multiple times long-term.
The selection team is up to their noses in records every day trying to determine what to archive and what to skip. They evaluate around 3,000 records each day for archiving. We are doing everything we can to see if there is a way to simplify their methodology. Can we implement machine learning to filter out records we know for sure we will not archive? What information do we need to make that happen?
It has been a long week, for sure. We are completely changing gears from the coding I have done in the past and the materials I am working with. I am trying to compress my learning time, as there are two of us working on this project and I want to make sure I am staying on top of things.
For our intern event this week, we had a Town Hall meeting with Jeff Zucker, the current CEO of Warner Media and Sports. We had the opportunity to ask him questions about himself, the future of the company, and any other pressing questions we had. As per usual, most of the questions were journalism-based. So I felt a little out of place. We also only had an hour, so not all of us were able to ask the questions we had. If I had gotten the chance to ask mine, I would have wanted to know what his goals were for digital research and innovation internally at CNN. Everyone else is so focused on the external big picture. I have always worked behind the scenes. It would have been cool to hear what his internal goals were.
Then again, he has a background in journalism and production. My questions are a little too niche for that.
This week served as a bit of a mid-program check-in between my bosses and I. I got the chance to demo the Python script that I had worked on. And, while there are a couple of bugs due to the HTML structure itself being amended, it works exactly like it should. I generated batch files as well, so everyone else can just click on a Desktop shortcut and run the script. It made me feel really good to have them compliment my work. Web scraping is something I have always wanted to learn how to do, but in my mind is a relatively simple thing to do. So the fact that it had not been done yet, and I got to learn something new while also building something that will benefit the department made me feel really accomplished.
In addition to talking about work tasks, we talked about the internship program as a whole. What did I like? What did I not like? Am I doing everything that I had hoped to do? If we are being totally honest, I love it here. I am learning so much, doing so much for this company, and am so grateful to have the freedom to continue researching and learning digital methods that are important to me. I will admit, my internship is very different from what the other interns around CNN have. They all work with new media and generating content. I like to think that my job is to play with the new content they create. Scraping articles, perhaps doing some topic modeling on politics or sports or something. I get to read and learn so much.
Since the Python scripts works for everyone, and I successfully mapped all of the Google terms with our existing terms, my tasks are switching gears a little bit. I now am dealing with some sentiment analysis work as well as facilitating the creation of new tags for our term list. Specifically, I am identifying new people to add to our directory.
With the sentiment analysis, I am working with intensity scoring. In other words, the amount of weight given to a single word or limited string of words based on how those words make a reader feel. For example, terms like “controversial” or “powerful” are given a stronger weight, while terms like “unorganized” or “activist” are given a lesser weight. It is difficult to explain how sentiment analysis works, mostly because different people have different reactions to different stories. We debate quite a bit about what a word means and the feelings we get from how it is used. It seems to be a never ending battle. But that is half the fun!
For identifying what people we need to add to our terms list, I should preface this by saying I read probably around thirty to fifty stories per day. These stories cover any and all subject matter we publish here at CNN. That said, I read a lot of names. Many of them are already in our list. The names that I add now are names that appear frequently across multiple stories, and multiple times in stories. For example, I added Cori “Coco” Gauff to our terms list, as she became a very popular name very quickly due to her performance at Wimbledon.
I have said this before, and I will say it again: it is so cool being a historian and working with real-time, relevant information. More often than not, the material I work with is around 200 years old. To be using digital methods to play with information as it comes out is really cool premise for me.
This week, I actually got a Python coding assignment: web scraping. Web scraping is something that I have heard so much about, and yet have never had the opportunity to learn how to do.
In theory, web scraping entails grabbing certain elements of an HTML page that contain information you want. For this assignment, we were looking for content titles, their live URLs, the tags or elements that we applied to the content, the word count, and the body text of the content. Essentially all of the important stuff.
As for our intern programming for this week, this week we were immersed in volunteering. Warner Media strongly advocates for its employees to go out into the world and do good things. For us interns, we had two different opportunities to give back: the first was a lunch hour with local high school students who were interested in joining the media industry, and the second was a meal-packing session with Open Hand Atlanta. I chose to partake in both events.
The lunch was honestly so fun. The interns partnered up and were given a group of five high schoolers to just sit and talk with over sandwiches. It was inspiring to listen to their stories and learn what they wanted to do with their lives. We also got the opportunity to discuss our current positions with them, as well as answer any questions that they had. I felt like I put on my New Student Enrollment hat for a bit, particularly when they started asking questions about college in general. What majors they should consider, why we chose our respective schools, all the details eager high schoolers want to know about college. It was wonderful.
The meal-packing event was a great bonding experience for those of us who went. Open Hand Atlanta has an extraordinary mission of serving those in the Atlanta area who are unable to get out and obtain their own groceries due to age, disability, or other factors. We spent a three hour shift packing healthy meals containing things like chicken salad, quinoa, and vegetable soup. It was a great way to get out of the office and help people within our Atlanta community.
I have been dividing my time between three different tasks each day. I start every morning reviewing articles that were published the previous day to verify the accuracy of the tags that were applied. This is helping train the computer algorithm to pull the correct tag based on the content of a story. I read about seventeen of these articles each day.
I have then been spending a majority of my days either researching or practicing coding in Python. Specifically, I’ve been looking at documentation on web scraping. How to do it, what results it can give, and more than anything, how it can make life easier in certain research scenarios. So far, I have learned a lot. I have managed to scrape information off web pages I downloaded. The next step will entail figuring out how to scrape from a live website. Looks like I have a ton more reading ahead of me.
When I need breaks from coding or reading, I am still mapping the Google categories to our existing taxonomy term list. It has been a bit of a challenge making sure that I am getting every layer of the hierarchy mapping to the correct path. But once we have it all done, we can ensure that all the tags are pointing to the right content.
We also had an intern session dedicated to professionalism. We went over the usual basics, resume and cover letter building, interview etiquette, networking, and how to make your way through the media industry. I will admit that I felt like I did not learn much. This is due in part to a few things. First, as a graduate student, all of the resume and cover letter stuff is very remedial for me. I have attended classes with career services both in my graduate and undergraduate programs. Some of my actual academic classes also had sessions related to professional development. Overall, I heard the same things that I have heard for the last few years. Also, so much of the presentation was, again, how to make it in the entertainment industry. The work I do, it is not specific to the entertainment industry. The other interns are incredibly cutthroat, particularly when it comes to air time and getting stories written. I think it may be best for me to just keep my head down and do the work I know how to do and enjoy where I am doing it.
With it being already a quarter of the way through the program, I still enjoy going to work every day. Looking forward to seeing how the rest of the summer progresses!