Newsday.com internship teaches importance of Web journalism

By Michael Kelly

Michael KellyWhen I first heard about the Newsday.com internship, I had no idea what to make of it- the only thing I was certain of was that it was probably something not up my alley. I viewed myself as a writer, who wanted to get into either investigative or sports journalism; at Stony Brook my concentration was Web journalism, but my goal was to be able to learn the necessary coding to be able to run a blog, not a content-driven Web site.

With the exception of getting involved in a campus publication, spending my summer with Newsday.com has been the smartest thing I have done to further my journalism goals. My internship taught me basic web skills, but more important were the general things I learned – how to work more efficiently, the importance of teamwork, and a reemphasizing of the importance that journalism and newspapers (and Web sites) have on a community.

During my time at Newsday.com, I helped manage the Nation/World, Politics, Sports, New York and Entertainment pages, and was also expected to help with various tasks on the Web site – photo galleries, adding stories to the local sections, photo galleries, making sure stories had the correct related content and tags on them, photo galleries, etc. Doing all this helped me learn how to budget my time, and stressed to me the importance of not only starting work off like a ball of fire, but maintaining my work ethic throughout the work shift. It helped me grow up – I had to eat/drink better and make sure I got the proper amount of sleep to be able to function at a high level consistently.

At school, it is easy to procrastinate and put off work- I’ll set up that interview tomorrow, copy my notes over later, etc. Working in a newsroom, particularly on a Web site, helped rid me of that notion that I could have that mindset – news happens constantly and if you want to serve the community who reads your news organization’s output properly, you better get that news up quickly and it must be accurate.

On more than one occasion I saw how important teamwork is to an online news organization. I was in the newsroom when Michael Jackson died, and saw the craziness that ensued – everyone scrambling to put any content they could find up – blogs, news articles, past archives and photo galleries (me). I watched Gov. Mark Sanford admit to an international affair from my computer as I scrambled to put together a photo gallery of the governor, while keeping my eye on the news wire for the latest AP copy. And I was there when Walter Cronkite passed away, an event which caused our newsroom into another flurry of content gathering, though not to the same level of Jackson.

While it is easy to look back at the big events, I learned that teamwork is essential at all times to a successful newsroom. The people I worked with were constantly talking and instant messaging with one another, sometimes about work-related things, but most of the time to bust on one another. The type of atmosphere the Web team had made working with one another easy- if I needed help I had a group of friends I could ask for help. I never once was made to feel out of place or that I was not a valuable member of the team- while this is more of a testament to the people around me that to myself, seeing how the web team interacted is something I will take with me back to my campus publication, the Stony Brook Independent, as well as to my future newsrooms.

Finally, the importance of news and the sense of community it gives to its readers is something I had not fully grasped before- and how important it is that reporters and editors remember that. While it is obvious that people will come to their hometown (or favorite) newspaper or news website when a big story or a local tragedy occurs, it was the smaller things that really hit home with me. For instance, the idea that all local deaths belonged in the “Local Notable Deaths” photo gallery – because, as my internship adviser Adam Abramson told me – “If someone cared about them, they’re notable.” Perhaps the best example I can give was something that did not involve me, but rather a phone conversation I watched between Newsday.com’s deputy editor, Jamshid Mousavinezhad, and a regular reader of the Web site.

We had just switched to our new Web site, and the reader was an older gentleman who no longer could find the link to take him to the daily Newsday crossword. Jamshid talked with the man for about 10 minutes as he found (and fixed) the link, giving the man instruction the whole time about how to find it. He ended the phone call by telling the man his name and giving him his personal work phone number, so that if he had anymore trouble he could directly call him, and not have to call the general helpline again.

This story needs a little perspective – as far as I know Jamshid is the busiest person in the world. This is not an exaggeration. He routinely has about 15 windows open on his screen, works on two computers at all times, keeps his eye constantly on the wires and other news sites, and only leaves his desk to go to news meetings. Jamshid barely has time to eat lunch when he is working – but he did take the time to help a reader with something as a simple as a crossword. That meant a lot to me.

I am still not sure that Web work is what I want to do – I enjoyed it a lot, but I think I still want to try my hand at being a sports beat reporter. If I end up working in Web journalism though, I can see myself being happy to do it, so I am glad that I got to try it out this summer. I am very grateful for the experience and the people I got to meet.