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Fast (and Weird) Start for One W&L Intern

As understatements go, Michael McGuire’s description of his first day at his summer internship is right up there: “It wasn’t what I was expecting.”

Come this fall, Michael will be a Washington and Lee University senior. He’s majoring in journalism and Spanish and this year won the Todd Smith Fellowship, which supports an internship in Miami, Fla., with El Nuevo Herald, one of the country’s premier Spanish-language newspapers.

So he touched down in Miami this week, reported for duty at El Nuevo Herald and was paired with another reporter to get the latest information on Miami’s celebrated cannibal story — the bizarre case in which one naked man was shot and killed by police as he attacked another naked man and began eating his face.

Michael had only just read about the incident while waiting in the lobby to go on the assignment.

Michael e-mailed that his efforts were “fruitless for a while, waiting outside of a bank to interview a man who rode by the attack on his bicycle and hoping to find some of the victim’s family waiting in the lobby of the hospital trauma center. We found out all of the court documents we wanted to read to get more information on the attacker weren’t available at the courthouse downtown. It wasn’t until a press conference at 2:30 p.m. that we started to get little pieces for a story. Someone showed us leaked photos of the faceless homeless man, and another reporter told us who she thought the victim was. The police hadn’t confirmed anything.”

Back in the newsroom, Michael did some background research on a 1985 story by legendary Miami crime writer Edna Buchanan, when a naked man threw the severed head of his girlfriend to a police officer who approached him on the street.

“We wrote and rewrote the story, adjusting for every new bit of information we dug up or were given on the phone,” wrote Michael. “We ordered pizza. We didn’t leave until about 10:30 p.m.”

The next morning, Michael woke up to find his byline on the story on A1. (Note: It’s in Spanish.) “It’s a story gaining international attention, and though this wasn’t ‘breaking news,’ it was cool to be a reporter keeping people updated on the situation. Spanish speakers from all over the world turn to El Nuevo Herald for U.S. news. I’d say it was worth it.”

While Michael and his colleague were waiting for the press conference to start, he was chatting with a veteran TV reporter who told him, “You might as well quit now. This story is probably the craziest you’ll ever see.”

Said Michael: “I hope so. But I’m not quitting. I’ve got a lot to learn.”