By Karina Gerry
Over the winter break and into the spring semester I was lucky enough to intern for Times Beacon Record Newspapers, a media company that covers most of Suffolk County. During my time there, I wrote press releases, did research, worked on the layout and wrote my own articles that were published in the paper.
At first, I was hesitant about accepting the internship because I am currently on the broadcast track and I don’t want to go into print journalism, but I’m so glad I didn’t let that deter me. This internship showed me what I am capable of and I now know I have what it takes to be a real journalist. I am more confident in my abilities and the idea of deadlines no longer terrifies me.
I would encourage any School of Journalism student to have an internship with a local paper. The staffs are hands-on and willing to work around your schedule, and you get real experience. Many of the sources I spoke to during my internship became contacts I could go to for my classwork as well. Working for a local paper might not seem glamorous, but if you want to have actual hands-on experience, it’s the place to go. Within my first week, I was working on my first story, and nothing beats the feeling of seeing your hard work published in an actual paper. While I have worked for The Statesman for two years, and have had my articles published there, this was a whole new experience, and, to be honest, a whole new feeling of anxiety.
The biggest piece of advice I can give to students is to wait until your junior year to get an internship. While I do believe it’s important to intern as much as you can for the experience, I also believe you should wait until you take Pablo Calvi’s JRN 320 class. The skills I gained from that one class prepared me for my internship. I would have been drowning if it wasn’t for the weekly articles he had us publish, and the real-life experience I had gotten in that course.
During my time with TBR, I wrote articles that ranged from local stories, like covering town hall meetings, to state and national stories, like the recycling problem that is currently affecting the country and how the problem has become an issue for Suffolk residents. I got the chance to meet amazing individuals who were in my own backyard and I had no idea. There was Scott Schneider, the man who went around picking up trash and made it into art. There was Kenneth Wei, a 17-year-old track star who was also a brilliant student headed to MIT. I was lucky enough to tell their stories and share them with my community.
In many ways, my experience was unique. The paper I interned for covers my local Suffolk County Legislator, Kara Hahn, who also happens to be my mom. This could be considered a conflict of interest, and I worried it meant I wouldn’t be able to cover the topic I was most interested in, politics. But it ended up being a good learning experience on how to handle the issue as a journalist in the future. I realized over time that the best way to avoid the appearance of a conflict of interest was to be upfront about it from the beginning. If my editors asked me to write a story that would involve my mom or would require a quote from her or someone who works for her, I would recuse myself and explain my situation. In many ways, my experience from growing up in politics and my connections from my mom ended up being beneficial to me as a journalist, not detrimental, as I had feared at first.