by Sonaiya Kelley
This summer I interned with Patch.com as an editorial intern, by way of the Dow Jones News Fund.
Patch has an interesting mission. Interesting, and hard to explain. Patch specializes in a kind of national, local reporting, if that makes any sense. Meaning this summer I covered all of Long Island from a comfortable seat at Patch’s NYC headquarters on 22nd and Sixth. That may not sound so unusual, but consider this: One of my fellow interns covered North Carolina, another covered Michigan. Did we visit these places over the course of the summer? No. We conducted interviews via telephone and got many of our tips from press releases and reader submissions.
The first thing I learned this summer is that “remote local reporting” is not my thing. I decided to major in journalism because I like to write and because I like to talk to people in person, even if it’s more awkward that way. Polishing up PR-speak and rewriting press releases is not what I have in mind for a career. I certainly had my fill of long-distance reporting in the 12 weeks I spent at Patch.
The best thing about Patch was the people I worked with. My fellow interns were talented and driven. (One left the internship early for an entry-level position with The New York Times.) Warren St. John, Patch’s editor-in-chief, is super friendly and seems to really be concerned with whether the interns are enjoying their time at Patch. The office atmosphere is laid back. There’s free Keurig coffee every morning and frequent shipments of snacks. All in all, not a bad summer.
The bulk of the pieces I wrote were culled from school-issued press releases or police reports. I wrote a few features which were the most fun to put together, and I got a couple of humorous calls from readers: one berating me for running a photo of a 19-year-old arrested for DWI and another extolling the compatibility of Virgo-Pisces pairings. Patch readers, especially Long Island ones, are a crazy bunch, but I really enjoyed their feedback and every positive comment.
Because I wasn’t actually pounding the pavement chasing down leads, the bulk of what I learned over the summer had to do with human interaction. Journalism is an incredibly competitive business, but you can’t look at your fellow interns solely as competition. Most of us had different interests from one another and hoped to end up in different places, ranging from the international desk at The Times to the business desk at The Wall Street Journal to entertainment news. I really cherish the friendships I fostered with all of these different personalities, and I know that if ever I’m in a position to help them out career-wise, I wouldn’t hesitate to.
There’s nothing I really wish I’d known from the start. Everything flowed rather smoothly and I don’t regret any of my choices. I came to Patch at a time where everything was in flux, and I mean everything. Patch had just been dropped by AOL and had to launch a whole new platform in a few short weeks. The new platform was slated to feature a new national Patch landing page, which needed local-national content, rather than remote-local content. In addition, the size of the office shrunk by half, and the editor-in-chief was expecting his second child, who is two weeks overdue at the time this memoir is going to press. There was a lot going on, and sometimes there was little direction, but I’m glad I had the opportunity to experience every hectic second of it.