By Alicia Bermudez
I vividly remember walking into WSHU’s Long Island News Bureau on that first Tuesday afternoon. I hadn’t been able to sleep the night before, I was so nervous about royally screwing up on my first day. Luckily, when I first walked in, I saw two familiar, smiling faces, and that made me feel a little better. I had been thinking about this first day since I was offered the internship, and I was determined to at least make it seem like I knew what I was doing.
When I had to do my first phone interview in the sound booth, I was freaking out that I wouldn’t hit the right switches and buttons and then, in turn, that I wouldn’t record the interview properly. But with the help of my colleagues, I did it correctly and ever since that first time, I haven’t stumbled with phone interviews in the sound booth.
Then came writing the script, I had never written for radio before, but Terry Sheridan, the bureau chief, kept telling me it was similar to writing for TV, which I had been exposed to. Then he said four words that have stuck with me since that moment: “Keep it simple, stupid.”
With every script, my writing became more concise while conveying the most important parts of the story. That was one of the biggest things I learned: how to weed through all the nuance and get to the real heart of the story, what people care about the most. I learned how to break down complicated stories into 30 seconds of something everyone could understand, even if they didn’t have a lot of knowledge on the topic.
I also learned not to get frustrated when I don’t get it right the first time. Sometimes, the script I turned in was good to go, and other times it got completely redone. Sometimes I could track my voice in one or two takes, but other times I stumbled over my words and needed to do it over and over, at least 15 more times. This field takes a balance of patience and urgency. You have to learn to hold off on getting frustrated but also know that you’re on a hard deadline and need to get things done.
What I liked most about being an intern at WSHU was that I got to work on a wide array of different stories that I don’t typically get to work on. I learned a lot, especially about environmental concerns on Long Island. Whenever there were developments in illegal park-dumping stories, I was always the one to cover it. I’m not from Long Island, so having an internship here taught me a lot about the people and culture here, which are vastly different from Buffalo, my hometown.
I wish I would have known how fast it goes. It feels like just yesterday I was walking into the office on my first day, and now, after three months, it’s all over. I feel like we all get caught up in the everyday stress, just trying to get everything done and make it to the next week without crashing and burning. We don’t take enough time to step back and enjoy where we are at the time it’s happening.
I would tell a current SOJ student considering this internship to go for it. Even if you’re unsure of your qualifications, apply. If you get offered the reporting intern position, take it. It’s such a valuable experience, and saying that you’re interning at an NPR affiliate is really cool, too. This internship pushes you, not to the point where you’re too stressed and overwhelmed but to the point where you can grow. The people you’ll speak to for stories, and your editors, will change your perspective and make you a better journalist.