By Justin Mitselmakher
Over the past six months, I have been interning for the Long Island Press. Not only have I practiced reporting, editing and fact-checking – I have also become more engaged in the local community.
I met my soon-to-be editor, Timothy Bolger, at our school’s internship fair in November. At the time, I was focused on writing for broadcast with the Stony Brook Media Group. However, I expressed interest in growing as a print writer, knowing that versatility is crucial for journalists.
A week or so later, I received an offer to start writing for the publication. Although finals week was around the corner, I told Timothy I wanted to jump in right away. We agreed upon a day of the week and a number of hours dedicated to work. When it was finally my first day on the job, I was nervous about what was to come. Intrusive thoughts of “Am I good enough?” crept in.
I received an email detailing my first assignment. I was to write a roundup of new restaurants for the month of December. I immediately hopped online and started researching. I scoured Yelp, Instagram, Facebook and more to double-check that the restaurants I found were indeed newly opened, as well as reading reviews, menus and looking at pictures to get a sense of their atmospheres.
From the start, writing in AP Style was heavily emphasized. When working on the restaurant guides, it was fascinating to learn the rules of how foods had to be spelled according to the Stylebook – something I hadn’t thought of before. Even though the guides were structured, I always tried to write in a colorful and alluring voice.
As the weeks went on, I grew accustomed to writing all sorts of lists, from holiday events, new restaurants and local charities. I was learning about theaters, people and towns I had never heard of before, all from the comfort of my dormitory.
It was during winter break that I was assigned an actual story to report on. The supply-chain crisis had created a cream cheese shortage. I immediately started making calls to bagel shops in Nassau and Suffolk counties. An adrenaline rush came over me when I was firing questions at shop owners, scribbling down notes and researching the history of the economic issue. A few hours later I sent my story to Timothy, hoping to have his approval.
It was a celebratory day when my bagel store story was published, and from then on, I felt that Timothy trusted me to deliver quality pieces. In the months following, I conducted many interviews for other stories. Timothy connected me with Kristen Glosserman, a celebrity life coach, who confessed during our 20-minute phone call that she had been taping for NBC’s “Today” show earlier that day. It gave me a sense of confidence and power as a student journalist to report on influential people like Glosserman and author Brad Kolodny.
My time at the Long Island Press taught me to snap into writing mode faster than I had done before. Often, I submitted stories the same day they were assigned to me. As the weather warms and I find myself off-campus, a small burst of pride comes over me when I unexpectedly drive past restaurants I have covered in these past months. Working and writing remotely can be isolating, but seeing subjects in real life feels rewarding.
I walked past a newsstand nestled in the 20s and Broadway when home in the city a few weeks ago. Logos of the Long Island Press and Dan’s Papers logos – the two outlets where I had been published – caught my eye, and I quickly rummaged through the copies. Although I wasn’t in that week’s edition, it was surreal knowing my words were tangible and not just on the computer screen as I had always seen them.
To future interns at the Press – don’t be afraid to ask questions. Sometimes assignments can seem too vague, and a simple follow-up email will always clear any confusion. Also, don’t let a lack of resources (like not having a car) stop you. Your next story could be one Google search away.