Digging into local reporting

By Randall Waszynski

My internship at the Long Island Advance in Patchogue was a great learning experience and considerably increased my confidence covering stories with several pertinent components and people. I also learned a lot experiencing working in a news workplace, having conversations with my editor and the staff reporter in depth about stories we are covering. These people in the office were always willing to answer any questions I had. A sense of encouragement was clearly evident among those who work for the Advance.

Local news takes some getting used to, specifically regarding the elements in the proximity to familiarize with. One example is covering stories with a local government angle. I covered many Brookhaven Town meetings involving lengthy agendas and, sometimes, the information that is newsworthy can be convoluted or even skewed with government-angled bias. Public comment is available at a lot of these meetings, though a lot of issues come and go without the existence of public comment. Covering the meeting regularly, however, has made me incredibly familiar with the process and vested interest of those sitting on the board.

Different government entities blame each other for anything that goes wrong in a planning- or objective-related complaint that comes from an advocacy group or concerned residents. Anything that could potentially look like their entity’s fault is warped into the other entity having a hand in that mishap. Suffolk County and the Town of Brookhaven, particularly, are very combatant with each other. Brookhaven covers more than 50 percent of Suffolk County, so various instances of disagreement occur, and it looks like it’s honestly just for the sake of making the other look bad or getting a step up on the other (whichever phrasing seems more applicable to the situation).

Through steady work, my comfort in interviewing people has improved. Knowing the area better and better over time, I am able to ask more educated questions that elicit quote-worthy and powerful responses that are often combatting an opposite opinion from a separate source.

I have taken more pride in my reporting and writing. I received comments on a story that I wrote about an antique store selling white nationalist records and apparel, and those comments attacked my reporting and writing skills, personally. That instance made me realize that there are people who have enough of a vested interest to not respond well to journalism that invalidates their thoughts. I learned that I cannot those attacks personally, and it should not make me question my writing or discourage me from this career path.

One thing that I will continue to practice with my work is time-management. I tend to be a little slower-than-average writer, but I’m thorough. I would like to maintain that level of thoroughness but increase my speed of turning over a finished product. This also involves sifting through recordings, notes, interviews and documents in an efficient manner.

Honestly, I felt quite prepared entering this internship in January. Aside from the intricacies and specifics to the localized issues, covering local news did not throw me a substantial or overwhelming curveball.

To a Stony Brook SOJ student considering an internship with the Long Island Advance: My most important suggestion is to not only convey yourself as reliable and responsible, but to also display that. I think Stony Brook did a great job, as any institution would, in drilling the importance of deadlines. Missing a deadline can be viewed as unreliable, and that may deter your editor from giving you a more complicated assignment.

Another pertinent thing to not forget is understanding and acknowledging the intentions and bias of the people you are interviewing and eventually quoting. Keep this in mind in real time when articulating follow-up questions that would be effective to ask that specific source.