My Time in the Newsroom

My Gig as a Local News Reporter


Published: January 31, 2008

Last summer, while most of my friends enjoyed relaxing days of sunbathing at Jones Beach and nights of backyard barbeques, I spent my time getting a taste for the world of journalism. I began writing for my high school newspaper as a freshman, but half-way through my junior year, a unique and moving story assignment became the start of what I hope will be a lifelong career.

As a reporter for the features section, I was asked to write a human-interest story about students who had gone to JFK airport with members of the local Rotary Club to welcome a boy from Iraq. He had made a harrowing journey across his war-ravaged country to come to America for a lifesaving heart surgery. The article caught the eye of the editor of the North Shore’s local newspaper, who asked that I write a version of the story for the paper, The Leader.  I immediately began to revise the article, which appeared on page one of the paper’s following edition. I decided to try to turn this initial success into a real opportunity.

With several of my high school articles and a teacher’s recommendation in hand, I approached The Leader’s editor and asked for a job at the newspaper. He reviewed my work and agreed to give me chance at a second article. This opened the door for my experience in the career of my dreams. At the age of 16, I became a member of the New York Press Association, received my first press badge and spent the next 18 months honing my journalistic skills working as a reporter for the paper.

I paid my dues taking on the stories that none of the senior writers wanted to bother with. I sat through endless hours of town meetings, interviewed a woman on her 100th birthday and covered the 20th anniversary of a family reunion. Eventually, I began to cover more significant stories, from authorities investigating local crimes to interviewing New York State Senator Carl Marcellino on a new tax issue.

Of the many articles I wrote, none was more important than my coverage of a volatile debate over the proposed installation of additional cellular antennas on a town water tower. For months, the people of Bayville, NY, fought against their Town Board and Motorola, Inc., who asserted that the antennas posed no danger to the community. The residents, angry and fearful of the inconclusive scientific evidence, cited a number of childhood cancers in the area and the tower’s close proximity to the Primary School in their protests against the proposal.

As someone who lives within minutes of the water tower, it was hard to resist the emotions of the debate, but it was essential to the credibility of my work to present a whole and unbiased view of the situation. This issue truly helped me to see firsthand the importance of the media as an impartial voice in the midst of turmoil.

I came to love my experience as a reporter, but the job was often challenging and complex. It forced me to cope with my shyness in order to talk with complete strangers on topics that ranged from the mundane to the heroic, and sometimes very personal. I learned to draw answers from people who would have preferred not to be interviewed, as well as people who wouldn’t stop talking. I did more research on a broader range of topics than any school assignments would ever require. At times, I was cold, tired, scared, uncomfortable, bored and thrilled. But working for The Leader not only introduced me to some of the real work required of a reporter, it also helped me to know beyond doubt that journalism was the right career for me.