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.


To the #Tigray survivors, victims and their families: thank you for entrusting us with your stories. The recognition for our body of work on Ethiopia serves to counter the false narratives around the reality in Tigray. I’m so incredibly proud to lead this wonderfully dogged team. https://twitter.com/newsemmys/status/1575306516814610433

News & Documentary Emmys


The #NewsEmmys Award for Outstanding Research: News goes to Ethiopia: Exposing the Hallmarks of a Genocide (@CNN).

What's Putin's end game in Ukraine now? Former @CBSNews Moscow correspondent & @stonybrooku prof Jonathan Sanders and @IREXintl fellow and Moldovan media content producer Ecaterina Miscisina talk it over with the Marie Colvin Center https://youtu.be/5D2qcoaoRCs

Join us Oct 6 at the #stonybrooku Bauman Center for My Life as a Solutions Journalist with @soljourno founder Tina Rosenberg. All are welcome!

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