The beauty of succinct writing

  • May 1, 2019

By Taylor Beglane

Interning at WSHU is a great choice, and one I’m glad I made. After taking Terry Sheridan’s audio journalism class, I felt ready to apply for my first internship and get real-world experience and clips. I’ve done a moderate amount of group work with my name on the byline, but the number of pieces I had with just me writing it was a little too low for my liking. With this internship, I had a steady supply of stories to report on and write. I covered political, environmental and policy issues; I spoke to a wide variety of sources, such as Adrienne Esposito of the Citizens Campaign for the Environment, board members of various groups and even U.S. Rep. Lee Zeldin within the first month. My favorite part of journalism is becoming a mini-expert in a really specific topic in a short amount of time, and this internship allowed me to do exactly that.

An added benefit of working at WSHU was unlearning my own writing style and relearning a different way of writing: for radio. The differences between print journalism and radio journalism are staggering: I can’t wax on in long paragraphs, I’m limited to one idea per sentence, and those sentences have to be short and sweet. For someone who loves purple prose, this was a formidable challenge, and it took a while to shake off my old habits. But I see now the benefits of keeping my sentences succinct, and I’ve tried to incorporate the technique into my general writing. Less is more.

Working with editors is another essential part of journalism, and no less at WSHU. I paid extra attention to how my editors conducted themselves, since I want to be an editor as I further my career. I learned the benefits of emulating my editor’s style to minimize the need for edits the next day and next story, and also learned to restrain myself in defending my sentences. I give editors deference and respect: Terry Sheridan, JD Allen and Cassandra Basler were incredible editors, as were Jill Ryan and Jay Shah, my supervisors at the station. Everyone was personable, and personally invested in making my work the best it could be. I couldn’t ask for better people to care about helping me.

Confidence is a huge takeaway from this internship. Every time I enter the booth, I say my introductory monologue a little faster and with less practice — sometimes I even say it too fast. I feel secure with experience under my belt, knowing things to do to mitigate what might go wrong and cover every base so I ethically get my information. While in the beginning I was embarrassed to type even a sentence in a journalistic language I’m not fluent in, toward the end I was writing scripts faster than before.

The biggest thing I want you to know if you want to go into this internship is that it’s okay to feel scared; you’re new, and learning a new thing. You will get better. Each scary task will become routine, and the rewards each success gives you extends well beyond just journalism. Your editors are there to help you. Don’t be afraid to respectfully ask for some guidance. You’ll get better at an exponential rate, but also at your own pace. I got personalized guidance from JD once because I’d plateaued on my voicing, and while I was embarrassed at needing “extra help,” I got over it quick. I realized everyone stumbles on these roadblocks, and in order to succeed and improve, I needed to swallow my pride and let someone walk me through the basics I’d lost. And from then on, I did get better.         This internship is an invaluable introduction into the world of radio, at least for me. I will carry he things I learned here with me throughout my career.