Hands-on learning at a hyperlocal newspaper

  • January 29, 2021
Hands-on learning at a hyperlocal newspaper

By Jessica Coacci

My experience at the Long Island Herald was educational. At the Long Island Herald Newspaper, every intern was assigned to an editor. We pitched story ideas to our editors for approval, and they directed us to sources to interview. When we finished our articles, our editors gave us advice and feedback, including how to improve them, further research on interviewing, recommendations for other sources and more. When they were done editing our stories, they published them on their site with full credit to us. Each person and editor focuses on a specific area in Nassau. I covered the Five Towns (Hewlett, Woodmere, Cedarhurst, Lawrence, Inwood). The internship is about 15 hours a week, and I worked from April  to November by request. Most interns finish mid-August.

Because of the pandemic, our internship was moved to remote, so most people met with their editors on Zoom. My editor, Jeff Bessen, and I spoke via FaceTime and text. I did all my interviewing remotely. Initially, getting hold of people over the phone was challenging, but it got easier. I learned how to properly interview people over the phone, how to interview multiple sources over the phone and how to deal with technical difficulties.

The internship coordinator is debating whether to have the internship online next year as well because the editors liked the help from people out of the area. We had a couple of interns from Connecticut and New Jersey. If it is in person, though, I would still take advantage of the opportunity. Talking to people over the phone was such a rewarding experience, and because of the pandemic, a lot of small businesses were grateful for the stories we published because they brought them attention. Although I built relationships with my sources over the phone, I’m sure it would be even better in person. 

If you are interested in hyperlocal newspapers, this internship is a great fit. My editor knew so much about the Five Towns. He knew almost every single one of my sources, and everyone had something good to say about him, which made  interviewing easier. My editor explained to me the great importance of hyperlocal news, building a relationship with the people I interview and always leaving a good impression. I can confidently say after this internship I have built connections with many sources in the area, and I know they would be happy to hear from me in the future. 

When it came to editing, my editor did not hesitate to critique my work. In this internship, I can say they want you to learn from them as much as possible, and when it came to fixing my stories, he would tell me what I was doing wrong. He taught me how to write simpler, shorter sentences. He taught me a lot about AP style and how to incorporate it into all my articles. Also, he introduced me to publishing my articles online, which is a lot different than print. This includes things such as captioning, pull quotes, dropheds, headlines and more. And I learned how to edit photos for a website. 

In addition to online publication, my editor also showed me the “dummies” for every print newspaper. Dummies are the layout for every printed paper. He thoroughly explained the specific sections, page numbers, classified advertisements, news holes, photos, sidebars, story teasers and other formats for a paper. A lot of this information you will never learn in class, so it was educational. He taught me about the problems a lot of small papers are facing now with advertising and revenue, especially during the pandemic. 

Another good thing about the internship is that you can finish whenever you would like. The editors weren’t strict about a specific date by which you had to end, as long as you worked until about mid-August. This could change next year. 

Overall, my experience at the Long Island Herald was great. Your articles get published, and the internship coordinator, Scott Brinton, always repeats that he wants you to walk out with a great portfolio of stories. He is a journalism professor at Hofstra University and is used to working with college students, so the entire internship is not intimidating. The newsroom is one of the best on Long Island, and I wish I could have worked with my fellow interns in the newsroom and made more relationships with all the editors. I think that would add an even more valuable experience.