Making news in NYC
Internship fund provides stipend for journalism student to make connections and gain experience of working life in the country’s media capital
This summer, senior journalism major Gabe Hauari was one of two Virginia Commonwealth University Richard T. Robertson School of Media and Culture students to take part in a new internship program created by media entrepreneur Kirk Laughlin (B.S.’87/ H&S). Established with the goal of “building a bridge” between the school and the media hub of New York City, the Kirk Laughlin Internship Fund awarded both students a stipend of $5,000 to be used toward accommodations, travel and other expenses. Laughlin also helped secure the participation of the hosting companies.
“This type of experience is indispensable,” Laughlin said when the internship was announced in March. “It all starts to make more sense once you’re in there getting that kind of inside-the-newsroom stuff handed to you – like what to post on social media and how to serve the editorial mission of the publication you’re working at.”
Hauari set off for New York in June and returned in August. This is his account of the experience.
This past summer, I had the opportunity to intern in the one and only New York City at Source Media, a company that specializes in business-to-business digital media and journalism. I was selected to complete the 10-week internship through the Kirk Laughlin Internship Fund, a new program that was started by VCU alumnus Kirk Laughlin.
The Robertson School contacted me in May, notifying me that I was one of two selected recipients for the internship program, and by early June, I was all moved in and settled into my student housing in Manhattan. On my first day, I met my internship coordinator, John McCormick, and found out I would be writing for two of Source Media’s digital publications, Digital Insurance and Information Management.
These publications primarily cover technology as they pertain to the insurance and information-management industries. Having never covered these industries before, my first two weeks at Source Media were essentially a crash course in the jargon used in these industries.
On my first day, I met the other interns, who had come from all over the country with other internship programs, and toured the office. I spoke with the editors of each publication on the phone and got more familiar with my day-to-day tasks and the publications’ target audiences.
I would usually arrive at the office at 9:30 a.m. and start my day with a cup of coffee. My tasks differed a bit depending on the day. Most days, I would check out wire services, Google and PR pitches looking for stories until a conference call at 10:15 a.m. After the conference call, I was assigned one or two articles to write per day. A favorite piece I wrote was a feature story for Digital Insurance, about biometrics in the insurance industry.
I technically had four bosses during my time at Source Media, and it was them, along with Fred Bazzoli (editor-in-chief of Health Data Management), on my morning conference calls: John McCormick, leader of the technology-focused editorial group; Nathan Golia, editor-in-chief of Digital Insurance; David Weldon, editor-in-chief of Information Management; and Danni Santana, associate editor of Digital Insurance. Of the four, only John and Danni were in the office, as David and Nathan worked remotely. I primarily maintained contact with them via e-mail, phone calls or [messenger service] Slack.
Danni took me under his wing during my time at the company. He showed me around, introduced me to several people and was always there if there was anything I didn’t understand about the material or if I had questions about how to write something. He taught me how to use Social Flow, the software Digital Insurance uses to manage its social media accounts, and how to use Source Media’s content management system.
Another person who took me under their wing was Amanda Eisenberg. She was an intern at Source Media last summer and was subsequently offered a full-time position there. She would always answer questions, have lunch with us and be there when we needed assistance. I honestly do not think I would have survived at the company had it not been for Danni and Amanda.
By the end of my internship, I had written more than 30 articles, posted on social media for one of the publications, Digital Insurance, and learned how to make updates to the website. I had interviewed people from many giant insurance companies, such as Munich Re and USAA.
Living in New York City for 10 weeks was certainly an interesting experience. At first, I was homesick and missed my friends and family. After a while, however, I started to take advantage of the city and met some people who lived in my dorm.
When I heard I had been accepted for this internship, I was also sent a list of VCU alumni who live and work in New York City and who would be willing to meet up and talk. I took full advantage and met with each person on the list, even meeting up with some of them twice. I want to give a special shoutout to Matthew Anderson (B.S.’94/MC), Melissa Gramstad (B.S.’92/MC), Ayo Oladipupo (B.S.’10/MC) and Rachael Savage (B.S.’06/MC), who were all wonderful people and gave me fantastic advice on everything from future career plans to great places to eat in the city.
This internship reinforced that I want to pursue journalism as a career, and it opened my eyes to the different types of journalism out there. Before this internship, I was hellbent on pursuing sports journalism – and, admittedly, I still am, but Source Media allowed me to explore business journalism in a manner I never had before. I feel like the experience better prepared me for the future because I worked in a real newsroom with real journalists. It was really cool to be edited and published by a professional editor. I also made connections, which are always important in any industry.
Overall, living in New York City and interning at Source Media is an experience I’ll never forget. If I were to thank everyone who made it possible for me to have this experience individually in this piece, it would go on for pages and pages and pages. You know who you are. And thank you for a truly unforgettable summer.
To learn more about the Richard T. Robertson School of Media and Culture, contact Lauren Stewart (B.S.’10/MC; M.S.’11/MC), development and alumni relations manager, at (804) 827-3761 or firstname.lastname@example.org.