by Kareema Charles
At 11:45 a.m., I walked into Chelsea Markets and took the elevator to the sixth floor. Since I did not have an ID yet, I had to sign in by scrawling my name in a book. Then I opened the doors into NY1, a place I had envisioned myself interning for almost a year since touring the place during the Reporting in NYC class.
I walked to the assignment desk and within minutes, literally minutes, I was paired with a “shooter,” also known as a news assistant. On my first day, I got B-roll shoots of a federal building while being heckled by security guards. I went to Brooklyn to get some man-on-the street shots near a library, then downtown to an event where the mayor spoke and gave out awards. It may not sound like a lot, but in that eight-hour stretch, I learned new shooting techniques that I never even thought of. I even suggested some pointers to the shooter, who was initially shocked but then was appreciative of my ideas.
While we are taught to get man-on-the street shots on campus, and I’m good at it here, nothing beats getting MOS on the streets of New York City. That particular day, I was trying to get the opinions of neighborhood residents about a luxury condo being built on top of a public library. The shooter taught me another approach to get MOS, and I took what I learned from him back to school.
At the event with the mayor, I learned how to think on my feet. There were so many little problems that went on at the event. We ran into problems where we were setting up at because of a lack of communication among the organizers of the event. We also had problems with the sound and the lighting. The shooter and I had to both think quickly and figure out how to make everything work and get what we needed for the station. This, again, was on the first day of my internship.
As a general news intern, I went back and forth between the assignment desk and production. On Tuesdays, I was at the desk. My job was to answer phone calls. I found this nerve-racking up until the end of my internship. But part of my job was to assist shooters when needed, which was almost every Tuesday.
Going out with a shooter showed me the reality of being a reporter in New York City,. I’ve been to scheduled events and breaking news stories. I’ve seen how other news organizations work because everyone was pretty much at the same place all the time. Reporting can be like rugby. Everything can start in a scrum. Repeated exposure to this phenomenon also reinforced in my head that people are willing to work and talk to you more because of the name NY1 than when you’re reporting for classes. Even though I did experience problems in the field, it was, overall, better than the problems I’ve faced at school with the administration and access. Plus, for those eight hours, I was focusing only on NY1. I was not in my school’s newsroom working on a package while worrying about other projects, making time to finish a paper, making it to work on time or any of the other things that go through my head on campus.
On Thursdays, I was at production. I spent a good amount of time in the control room and was able to compare what NY1 does to what we do at school. But for the most part, I was on the computer, editing and writing voice-overs. Everything I did was critiqued by a producer or executive producer, so I got a lot of feedback and understood what I did right and what I did wrong. Each day I was at production, I had a new objective to learn and master by the end of my shift. Toward my last days at production, all the skills I learned allowed me to write a few scripts for the anchors to read on set. The satisfaction is that I’m able to look back and hear a professional who has been doing this for many years, read on air what I, a college student, wrote.
If I were able to start this internship from the beginning, I would try to be more outgoing. I am naturally a shy person. At an internship, you always want to stand out so that people can remember you. At NY1, I was just one of many interns until I decided to come in on a Saturday morning to go out with a reporter. That was the best decision I have made thus far as an intern because I landed an exclusive interview with New York City Police Commissioner William Bratton. The questions I asked helped the reporter and station.
For once, I didn’t feel like an intern who was learning and trying not to make mistakes but like a reporter who was reporting for a news station and thinking on her feet. That experience allowed many people at the station to view me differently, in a good way, because I wasn’t that quiet intern any more. I was a go-getter. I had represented the station in a mature manner and showed that I could handle myself in a demanding situation.
One of the many things I liked about my internship was the word yes. Anything I asked to do, I was allowed to do, even after my internship ended. I asked if I could come in for the Election Night coverage and help out, and I did. I asked if I could come in on weekends and help out, and I did. I asked if I could come back to work on a package, and I did. I also liked that on my last day, I received a lot of feedback and good critique that will help me at my next internship and at future jobs. At my previous internship, no one sat down with me and told me what I excelled at and what I could have done differently, even when I asked for that kind of critique. But at NY1, I got that feedback even before I asked for it.
Overall, I learned so much at NY1. I saw firsthand how similar work in the real world is to the work we do at the J-School, in terms of the skills we learn. What made my experience even better was the fact that a Stony Brook alum was there. He was able to relate to me when we spoke about my classes and any struggles I was having. He gave me feedback and compared what we do at NY1 to what we learned at school. He was like my unofficial mentor—just like everyone else I worked with.