By Nikita Ramos
During my five months at New York City’s WABC-TV Eyewitness News, I learned more than I could have in any journalism class. The night before my first day at “7 On Your Side,” a consumer troubleshooting segment of Eyewitness News, I didn’t sleep one bit. I was too nervous and didn’t know what to expect, but when I walked through the newsroom and to my desk, I felt my anxiety slipping away with every step. The TVs buzzed with the latest news. Anchors, reporters and news directors sat at their open cubicles chatting about the day’s stories. The work environment was so outgoing and friendly, and I met countless people just in my first day. A previous intern showed me the ropes of “7 On Your Side” and gave me some good advice that helped me succeed at this internship.
At “7 On Your Side,” I logged every email we received from our viewers onto a Google Doc and made calls on the stories I believed were newsworthy. While speaking to the viewers, I triaged their cases based on the documents and evidence they were able to provide in an effort to outline the issue and prove the responsibility of a certain party. After gathering enough information and answering the questions I believed my producer would ask, I pitched the story to him. Pitching a story to my producer was one of the more stressful parts of this internship. He would ask me questions regarding the story that I didn’t have answers to and should have known to ask the viewer. I took note of his questions and called the viewer right back.
One thing I learned very quickly was to never be afraid to say “I don’t know” as long as you say you’ll find out. The worst thing you can do at this internship is beat around the bush and duck the question the producer initially asked. If you don’t know the answer, you don’t know — but you will call and find out.
My favorite part of this internship was the shoots that I went on. Nina Pineda is the main reporter for “7 On Your Side,” and I worked at the desk right next to hers. When there’s a story that she’s working on that she needs interviews and shots for, my producer would assign for me to tag along. During these shoots, I learned a lot about Nina, the cameraman and the journalism industry, and I got a lot of advice. Watching and helping Nina interview sources and the cameraman set up different shots reminded me a lot of JRN 370 and JRN 371. I had never witnessed a full shoot and interview for a package, beginning to end, for real television until now. It made me realize that the skills, criticism and praise we receive from our professors at school only benefit us as students – using a light when shooting, rule of thirds, different perspectives…etc.
I was chosen to go on a shoot with another cameraman from the Eyewitness News team. Normally, an intern would tag along with a reporter as well, but this time I was the reporter trying to get SOTs for Rob Nelson’s package. He’s one of the Eyewitness News reporters. The cameraman and I drove to Brooklyn Heights where I went into multiple stores and restaurants asking for managers to speak with me about the issues in Syria. I got a couple SOTs and suggested a few shots for the cameraman to get for context. We dropped the tapes off to Rob in his news truck in Time Square to edit. The interviews I conducted aired later that night.
Before starting this internship, I wish I had known to be more outgoing. I’m a generally a quiet person around people I don’t know very well. During my time here at ABC, my producer/boss, Nina and other employees have become some of the best mentors an intern could ask for. However, it doesn’t hurt to make more connections. Don’t be afraid to say hi or good morning or introduce yourself to people around the newsroom. So many people are very friendly and are willing to get to know who you are. I wish I had initiated to get a few more stand-ups to add to my reel earlier in the internship. Another thing is, when you go on shoots, take every opportunity you can to add to your reel. Get some on-camera practice or help the reporter and producer write scripts.
Even though I have a lot of favorite times in this internship, most of which include experience I attained, the most rewarding thing to me is the direct impact I made on our viewers. In the past five months, I’ve saved people thousands of dollars from scams and wrongful bills. The power of the media is not to be underestimated. Journalism can really change things, and I’ve seen this first hand. I didn’t exactly understand why real world experience was so important until my internship at ABC. It’s truly life-changing.