Honing my skills in photo stories and feature writing

By Rachel Siford

In the summer of 2015, I interned for Times Beacon Record Newspapers. This was a valuable experience because I got to try things beyond what I have done at school. One of the most valuable things I took away from this internship was learning what it was like to work in an office.

I have been most interested in hard-news stories for most of my journalism career, but this internship forced me out of my comfort zone. I wrote a lot of feature stories and, through that, got to meet some interesting people. I also really liked reporting on a hyperlocal scale in an area that I am familiar with.

One of my favorite stories was a long feature about a 22-year-old girl who had just graduated from college and had already started her own business, selling exotic pet food. I really enjoyed doing this because, for starters, I got to meet her hedgehog, and also because I got to delve into her life and share her story.

I was also very excited to write a story about Stony Brook University’s new computer science building because it was the type of news story that I am very accustomed to writing, but I got to do it as a professional reporter and not as a student journalist. It was very interesting to see how differently media relations and even President Stanley treated me because I was an outside reporter.

Another great experience was working in an office. I have never had a 9-to-5 office job before, and I got to see what working in a newsroom is like. I liked having my own desk with my own responsibilities, and I learned office etiquette. I loved listening to the full-time editors and reporters joke around and talk about the issues they were having. I learned how professional papers dealt with certain things, and I would like to take some of these tips back with me to The Statesman.

I learned more about writing features and honed my knowledge of Associated Press style rules. This internship helped me come up with better questions to ask interviewees. Feature stories often have more room for creativity than hard-news stories.

I also learned how to shoot photo stories. I haven’t done that at SBU yet (besides the mini versions I did in JRN 215), and I went to a couple of events that lent themselves to telling the story through pictures, which is a really good skill that I will be able to take into JRN 320. I did photo stories on a street fair in Centereach and on two high school graduations.

Something I did not expect when I came into this internship was that I would be sent out to do a lot of in-person interviews, and also sent to a lot of events to do photo stories. I spent many days driving around, going to events and meeting up with sources. I really liked this because I am so used to using on-campus sources, and I never really had to leave campus to report. This internship showed me that in real life, thinking you can stay in one place to get your stories is very unrealistic.

I would definitely recommend this internship to other students, especially for their first internship. It would give them a really strong foundation in reporting, writing and photography. I would tell them to be prepared to go to lots of different events and not to be afraid to ask questions because all of the editors at TBR are more than willing to help.

Everyone on the staff was supportive and helpful, which made adjusting to the office easy and enjoyable. I definitely feel more prepared for my next internship because of my experience here.