Radio experience is definitely a plus

By Jill Ryan

I interned at WSHU Public Radio. It was 10 weeks of hard work, but it was also fun. I attended my first protest demonstration and covered it for the station; I talked to so many officials that I cannot keep count; and I was able to hear myself on the actual radio throughout the entire summer.

I started the job with little knowledge of radio journalism. I had listened to NPR in the past, and I am a dedicated follower of podcasts like the Daily and Serial. But I had never really analyzed what went into researching and writing a script for radio. I was used to print journalism.

While I plan to be a print journalist, I made absolutely no mistake taking an internship with WSHU. I feel that broadening your skill sets is imperative to becoming a successful journalist. While I feel I have a knack for print, radio journalism is a whole different world, and working at WSHU has helped me learn and execute a new skill.

Terry Sheridan is the bureau chief–my boss–and he is also an award-winning radio journalist and professor at Stony Brook University. His mission was to teach me and the other interns how to produce journalism on the radio. He pushed us to do better each time, but he would always lend a helping hand.

Before WSHU, I had no idea how to use Adobe Audition, or a state-of-the-art soundbooth, or even how to transfer landline phones. I had taken no radio journalism classes prior to this internship. What helped me get the job was a resume full of my print journalism experience and a Stony Brook journalism professor who recommended me. I also was persistent and eager to learn. I made sure to show this during my interview and throughout the summer. Having radio experience is definitely a plus to getting an internship like this, but if you don’t have those specific skills yet but wish to learn, don’t be afraid to ask your connections for help. I worked very hard as a student, then as the professor’s teaching assistant, to earn a recommendation from him. It allowed me to be taken under Terry Sheridan’s wing and learn a skill I had never practiced before.

By the end of my first week, I had learned the key concepts of writing and recording for the radio, and I would only improve. I had my struggles, but with the help of Terry Sheridan and my fellow interns and senior interns, I learned from my mistakes and made better-sounding stories. By the end of my internship, I felt confident in my produced work.

I would recommend, however, that students take radio journalism classes before they take a WSHU internship if they don’t want any surprises. The first time I recorded my script I deleted it, and I freaked out, thinking that on Audition I could never get it back. I was wrong, but the knowledge could have saved me from the stress.

Another reason I wish I had taken a radio journalism writing class first is because for print, writing long is the goal. Radio is different. I wanted to expand my horizons by entering the world of radio, and it really is its own world. Short and to the point with no extra facts. It was, and is still, very hard for me to write short, but I have improved with WSHU helping me every step of the way.

I learned radio terms such as WRAP and VOICER, and I knew exactly what these meant and what I should do. WSHU had me write at least one story a day, and 26 of them aired this summer with my voice blaring over the radio. It was exhilarating. I started listening to 91.1 every day and got to hear my fellow interns as well. Only five of my pieces didn’t make the air as I recorded them. Most were what are called READERS. That is when the WSHU anchor reads your script for you.

I took this internship for three credits, which had me working 20 hours a week. So every Monday, Wednesday and Friday I would go across the train tracks and up the stairs of a realty building to get to the WSHU bureau. It’s small but efficient. We each get our own computer with a soundboard attached. I only really used the soundboard at the desk if I needed to record a press conference streaming through the computer. Otherwise, I went to the soundproof booth in the other room to record myself and any interviews I conducted over the phone.

When we went out, we took an equipment bag containing a microphone, a microphone stand, headphones and a thick, book-sized, but light, tape recorder. I was issued a WSHU press pass, and I went to protests and press conferences around Long Island. It was so much fun. I not only experienced what it was like to be a journalist in the real world, but I actually was a journalist in the real world. This might sound silly, but, to be honest, even though I felt like a college student and I was always worried I wouldn’t be taken seriously, I acted professionally, and my numerous sources treated me as the journalist that I became through WSHU.