An Internship With a Slow Pulse

  • December 1, 2017

By Nick Spennato

If I had to describe my internship at Long Island Pulse Magazine in a single word, I’d probably go with “simple.” Compared to the rest of this semester, which I’d describe as a cascading series of problems, my time at Pulse was refreshing. Work stayed there. It wasn’t something that would follow me home if there was more to do by the end of the day.

More than anything, Pulse is the kind of internship I’d recommend during a semester. I’m not sure how I’d feel about it during the offseason, if I had to put more hours in, but during the semester it was the ability to be proactive with my resume while still being manageable. During the week, it was eight hours over two days, a static block of time. It wasn’t something that would shift and move and get in the way of something that needed doing during school. I’d clock in and clock out, metaphorically speaking. I wouldn’t describe it as a transformative experience, but it did make me feel better about the field I’m getting into.

When I think of a newsroom my mind usually goes to the stereotype, the hustle and bustle of people scrambling around and someone probably screaming “Stop the presses!” at some point. Pulse was tempered by the mundane. Not everything has to be breaking news. There’d be times when I’d spend a whole afternoon making calls looking for pictures of past events at certain venues. Nothing earth-shattering; we simply needed the pictures and I was an extra hand with a mouth attached.

Sometimes we needed someone to go through Facebook posts for our letters page. Sometimes we needed someone to write letters for the letters page since nobody writes letters anymore. Those tasks fell to me, the intern.  Yes, you read that right. If you were under the impression that James DeMattice of Farmingdale was impressed by that chili recipe I’m afraid you’ve been bamboozled because he and I are one and the same. If you’re wondering why a publication would take the time to write letters to itself rather than not publish a letters page then you and I are in the same boat. Obviously I’d have preferred to not be put in that position but on the other hand I liked the place and this was not a hill worth dying on.

That’s part of what I’ve liked about this experience. We spend so much time in the School of Journalism talking about these massive reporting efforts by newspapers like The New York Times that sometimes I forget that it’s okay to cover the opening of a new craft brewery or to edit someone’s story about bagels on Long Island.  

One word of advice I’d send from current me to past me would be to be a little more assertive with what I wanted to do during the internship. When I accepted the position I was told pretty much flat-out that there wasn’t going to be much reporting, that they outsource most of their reporting to people who report in that specific field, this was pretty much exclusively about taking the work of others and compiling it into something readable. I was fine with that, but at a certain point there’s only so much copyediting and audio transcription you want to do. Both my editors made it clear at the start that they were flexible with what I wanted to pursue, and I feel that if I chose to push the issue I would’ve been able to move on to full-fledged editing early on rather than toward the end. Not that I minded the work I did. Sure, some of it was a little mind-numbing but then what job isn’t? The cynic in me would call this an exchange of free labor for an item on my resume. The realist simply calls it “mutually beneficial.”  

Pulse was not a revelation. It was not an experience I’d write home about, even if didn’t still live there. It was generally positive. It wasn’t an additional burden. It didn’t destroy my semester. It was a tiny taste of what a mid-scale local operation is like on the day to day. I’m sure other people would intern here and find it boring and pedestrian. Those people have a journalistic bloodlust I simply don’t possess.

For me, the opportunity to take a step through the doors of my chosen profession, however briefly, were enough to justify the time it cost.