Witnessing the inner workings of a professional newsroom

  • May 1, 2019

By Erika Peters

Portfolio: https://erikapeters01.wordpress.com/tag/newsday/

After applying on Indeed.com for the position as an editorial intern at Newsday, I really didn’t think that it would lead anywhere. Never hearing back from internships I applied for had become a pretty standard experience for me as a journalism student. But when I received a call that I had gotten the internship, I was somewhat nervous and didn’t really know what to expect. I had worked the previous summer as an intern for The Suffolk Times, a much smaller, weekly paper out in Mattituck. I knew that Newsday was a much bigger publication, with a bigger staff, a much bigger building, and a much bigger reputation.

The editor I worked under was Cindy Chin, the editor of the Towns section of the paper, and I could not have asked for a better mentor. Cindy really is just a human ray of sunshine — she’s always bubbly and made me feel warm and comfortable during my time at Newsday. I met so many people on that first day that I couldn’t remember all of their names, but despite that, everyone I spoke to and interacted with treated me with the utmost respect and kindness.

My first assignment was to write simple datelines for the Towns section — super-small, 150-word blurbs that usually came from press releases. Not the most riveting work, but at least I was writing something and getting practice calling town officials. But before I left on my first day, I was assigned to write a story about a soldier from Long Island coming home and surprising his son at school, with a video that went viral. With little time left in the day, I interviewed the soldier, his son and his wife on the phone and got the story in, published in print the next day. I felt like that was a test for me the first day and that I proved that I had the skills necessary to be where I was.

At my last internship, I was always running around to do my reporting, but at Newsday, where my stories included a feature on a Suffolk County Police officer honored during Black History Month, a story about a 36-year-old coupon and obituaries, I reported largely by phone at my desk. This was unexpected. Getting out more is the only thing I wish I had done more of during my internship. On the positive side, I got to know the other reporters and really saw the inner workings of a newsroom.

Toward the end of my internship, I covered a press conference at the Nassau County Police Department Headquarters in Mineola and covered a beach cleanup event by three municipalities at Hempstead Harbor. This really was the first time in my journalism career that I had to interview town officials in person, and, to be honest, it was intimidating. I am a shy person, though journalism has helped me break out of that. Having to interview the town officials on my own really made me go out of my comfort zone, which I appreciated. When I took this internship, I wanted to be able to try new things and grow.

I believe that this internship did help me grow, but in different ways than I expected. I finally had the experience in working in a pretty large newsroom, in a cubicle-type setup, and it was not what I was used to. I was the youngest person in the newsroom, no doubt, and I felt that I needed to live up to a type of professionalism that I really never had to before. Cindy emphasized the importance of accuracy and fact-checking, which has stuck with me. When writing a story about an artist who painted a mural for the Baldwin train station, I incorrectly reported the town he was from. I got the information from his website, but it was inaccurate. After that, Cindy talked to me and reiterated how important fact-checking is in this business. It was embarrassing, but Cindy did not make me feel like I was any less of a good journalist than I was before, and I’m thankful for that. After that incident, I was meticulous in checking my facts.

I would tell any SOJ student considering this internship to go for it, without a doubt. Even though most of the time I was inside the newsroom, by the end of my internship I had over 10 bylines, gained the experience of working in a professional setting, and had made connections that I would not have been able to anywhere else. My mom saved every single one of my clips from Newsday, so I think I made her proud. I hope from here I’m able to have more gratifying experiences like I did this semester.