The Importance of Local Journalism

  • August 1, 2019

By Gary Ghayrat

When I started interning at The Southampton Press, the first thing I noticed was the size of the place. Twenty or so people worked inside a one-story building. And just a 10-minute drive away was the so-called “Billionaire’s Lane” of the Hamptons, with lavish properties that are easily double, even triple, the size of the office and its parking lot combined. 

The full-time reporters made up an even smaller team that meets once a week to discuss story pitches with the executive and assistant editors. And the dynamic among everyone at those weekly meeting reminded me right away of the campus paper I work at. 

As at The Statesman Sunday meetings, conversations at The Southampton Press meetings went off topic regularly, turning into longer stories but most certainly ending with everyone laughing out loud. People would talk about something they’d heard, an upcoming event, a new restaurant opening around the block, construction on the road that’s causing traffic and everything small and big that someone who lives in Southampton would care about. 

It wasn’t hard to tell that people enjoyed working with each other and cared about what was happening inside the community that they’re reporting on. As often as serious discussions ended with hearty jokes, what started off as a casual conversation would end with a reporter jotting down a story idea in his or her notebook. Feeling right at home, I dived into work headfirst.

Although I mainly worked on editing and shooting videos, I tried to pick up as many writing opportunities as time would allow. I wrote press briefings about leadership changes at companies, upcoming fundraisers and more for the Residence section of the paper. Some days I visited designer house mansions in the morning and went to local farms in the afternoon to shoot videos. I covered elementary school kids showing off their greenhouse and high school graduates joining the . I edited videos of veterans at a Memorial Day ceremony. 

As eventful as my days were, what I appreciated the most during the internship was what I love the most about journalism: access to people’s stories. I was able to talk to local fire department volunteers and Special Olympics participants. I attended an hours-long public hearing and live-streamed a local election debate. What I’ve learned confirmed what I’ve heard in classrooms: that there are always important stories to tell, and they need to be told. 

Working at a local newspaper made me realize the importance of journalism at the community level. Community newspapers cover stories that reporters know full well won’t be covered at all unless they do it. Bearing that responsibility in mind, reporters at The Southampton Press are doing what we are trying to do at The Statesman, telling members of our community the stories they need to hear. 

During the internship I met people from all walks of life, but what made my time at The Southampton Press worthwhile were the reporters I tagged along with to learn how they did their interviews, the editors who helped me improve my craft and everyone else who made me felt welcomed. 

If anyone gets the opportunity to intern at The Southampton Press or other local newspapers, I strongly recommend them to take it. Because what I should have known was that what we do at our campus papers or for journalism class assignments isn’t much different from what actual news organizations, big or small, are doing: reporting.