I learned to be organized, concise and conversational

By Syreeta Yelverton

This semester, I had the opportunity of interning at WSHU News, where I had great opportunities like meeting politician Tom Suozzi, covering press conferences, working one-on-one with editors and superiors, and much more. Ultimately, I am very happy to say that this was my first professional journalism experience, and I am thankful for all the knowledge that I have gathered over the past semester. I hope that I was able to reciprocate my own talent and skill for the bureau anywhere near as much learning, opportunity and experience that I have gained through this internship.

If I Could Go Back

Looking back to the beginning of the internship, there is only one thing that I wish that I knew from the beginning. I eventually developed a filing system for both my folder at work and my internship folder on Google Docs. It was very difficult keeping up with all my work in the beginning because it was all jumbled together in one folder. The file system allowed me to one, not be as stressed because I didn’t have 40-plus files in one folder (which would have increased to hundreds over the course of the semester) and two, easily locate my work. And three, I was able to share that folder with Terry Sheridan, WSHU’s news director, and Connie Conway, my faculty adviser. This way, rather than always stressing about sending my work to them on a weekly basis, I was able to create, edit and leave all of my work in that folder, which they could view whenever they’d like.

What I Have Learned

Being Concise

Ever since I took JRN 393: Audio Journalism Lab, I have appreciated how writing scripts for radio has made more concise. For classes that require print writing, the minimum word count is usually around 500 words. And whenever I write scripts for broadcast, the minimum amount of time that scripts usually run is about one and a half minutes. And I loved JRN 393, but I personally believe that it should be a longer course (like four or five hours twice a week). We learned extremely valuable skills that I feel could not be fully learned, grasped or drilled into us in three hours only once a week. So, having this internship twice a week for 12 hours was the first time that I was able to really home in on the skill of being concise. I learned how to say everything that I needed to in only 40 seconds–or even less, if I had a soundbite.

Learning to Work with Editors

During this semester, we had two editors who had almost completely opposite editing styles. One of the main differences was that Cassie wanted readers/cut and copies and voicers/wraps to be different. Meanwhile, JD pretty much wanted them to be the same. In the J-school, you often have the same professors for semesters straight and you learn their styles and expectations. So it was refreshing to work under two different people. It forced me to remember, “Oh. You don’t just do something ‘that’ way. That’s just the way I got used to doing it under my professors.” And in the work force, you will deal with multiple different editors whether they’re within the same organization, or as you change jobs. So how to be adaptable to different editor’s styles was a good thing to be reminded of.

Voicing

I will forever thank JD for the one-on-one voice training that he did with me and the feedback that he gave on my voicing. Through the teachings of my superiors, and just time, I was able to turn a nasally, serious broadcast voice into a calmer, conversational voice. Also, I believe that I do not pop my P’s as much or as badl as I used to. Patience, time, practice and becoming more comfortable in my own abilities has allowed my voice to sound and become more mature, conversational and trusting.

Radio Style

There are many things that are different in radio than in print or broadcast. Here are the ones that I have noticed and learned.

  •   For wraps and voicers, you only say, “Syreeta Yelverton has more,” or whatever the reporter’s name is. Never something like “reporter Syreeta Yelverton checked out the scene and has more,” as I might write in a broadcast script.
  •   It’s always someone or something “says” or “said.” Never “according to,” as I would write in print and sometimes broadcast.
  •   Try to not use –ing words.
  •   Try not to include too many or too big numbers or organization names. It gets confusing and incomprehensible for the listener
  •   The sign off is always name, organization. For example, “Syreeta Yelverton, WSHU News.” Never something like, “Good luck out there, Seawolves! Reporting for the Stony Brook News, I’m Syreeta Yelverton,” as I would say in broadcast.

The Five W’s Plus H

Something that has always stuck with me from JRN 393 was Professor Sheridan’s five points. When I first started working at WSHU, because I did not know how to be concise and prioritize information right away, I made my own template of “who,” “what,” “when,” “where,” “why,” “how,” “other necessary information,” “appropriate context” and a “flipper,” also known as the “why should I care.” It was extremely helpful to organize stories that I was working on into those nine categories and then write a script based on that. And I am proud to say that after doing that for the first few weeks, I was eventually able to stop using the template and start writing scripts as soon as I read the stories.

Advice for Future WSHU Interns

I would encourage any Stony Brook student looking to broaden their journalism skills to try this internship for many reasons.

  1. Try something new! There are so many aspects of journalism (print, broadcast, radio, podcasts, technical stuff, editing, etc.) that you never know what you may actually end up loving. And there’s only a print and broadcast track in our J-school. So try different electives!
  2. It’s right across the street from campus! For me, this meant a lot. Considering that this was my last semester, I was extremely busy. I am a double major, so I had many senior project and broadcast classes for journalism, and my senior seminar for sociology. On top of that, I worked about 20 hours a week at two jobs and worked 12 hours a week at the internship. Also, I do not have a car. So WSHU’s location was a big-time saver and one way to cut down on the immense amounts of stress that I experienced this semester.
  3. I believe that working in radio has reinforced fundamental aspects of journalism for me, the main ones being, be concise and be conversational. And you know the phrase, “You must know the rules before you can break them”? I believe that once you master being concise and conversational, you can apply those fundamentls to any journalistic field like broadcast or print. And it is very easy to expand on them, like becoming more serious for broadcast or writing longer pieces for print. But I personally believe that it is much easier to start concise and conversational and expand, versus being serious and longwinded and trying to break those habits.

Overall, I have valued this internship so much and cannot wait to apply these skills in my next phase of life and journalism, whatever that may be!