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Internship Spotlight.1: National News vs. Local News

By: Jessica Wachtel (Class of 2012)

After working at CBS News in New York City over this past summer and at WFSB in Rocky Hill over the course of this school year, I have come to realize that my experiences at both these new stations were extremely different, based on their coverage of local versus national news. While I had my internship at CBS News in the city, I worked everyday, eight hours a day, for ten weeks.  I was assigned to the News Marketing department with three other interns out of the total 180 interns. Upon my arrival at the building, I met my fellow interns who were from all over the country, stretching as far west as California and as far south as Florida.  Two boys from my high school happened to be assigned to the same department as myself, but overall I was working with a diverse group of people with various experiences and backgrounds in journalism and communication.

Working in the News Marketing department allowed me to contribute to the on-air promos by assisting the producers in writing the script for the promo, searching through archives for proper sound-bites, as well as finding the music and audio sounds that were appropriate for the promo.  Even though I met frequently with producers and editors, I did feel rather “small” in comparison to the rest of the company because I was surrounded by prominent journalists, actors, newscasters, and executives all the time.  Nevertheless, I would see how my efforts paid off when the promos I worked on were aired on national television; it was very satisfying to see the final product on television and the value of my contribution to the promo.  I feel that my internship at this national news station exposed me to areas of television broadcasting that I had never explored before, inspiring me to pursue media communications and news as my career with passion.  As an intern, I was able to observe how many people and different components were required to produce the news successfully.  In addition, weekly meetings were organized for all the interns to meet and listen to the advice of the top personalities at the news station, including the Evening News anchor, Scott Pelley, and Jeffrey Fager, Chairman of CBS News and Executive Producer of “60 Minutes,” who confirmed my desire and capability for doing this job.  These people became role models for me and opened my eyes to the exciting atmosphere that enveloped the building when breaking news occurred.  Furthermore, at the end of the internship, all the interns were divided into groups to create their own Evening News story, which entailed finding an interesting newsworthy story, writing the script, locating the interviewees, filming the footage and b-roll, and editing the story.  This project was my favorite part of the internship because it gave me the opportunity to learn and judge how to capture the best shots, how to create and follow a storyboard, and how to compile multiple clips into a well-executed piece.

On the other hand, at WFSB in Rocky Hill, the news station covers local news and does not require as many people to run and produce the news.  I do not feel as useful to the station because the employed workers rarely ask for help and take matters into their own hands to ensure that everything runs smoothly for the newscast.  I work eight hours a week with one other intern who attends school in Connecticut.  The limited diversity of the interns is also reflected in the kind of news that is reported.  WFSB covers local news, which concerns themselves with domestic events and issues in only a few counties in Connecticut.  I find that the geographic scope of their news is quite narrow in comparison to CBS News in the city and pertains to smaller insignificant events that focus primarily on local crime, political debates and elections at the Capitol, and less important news that does not influence the rest of the country, such as the reopening of a store.  The news I would personally like to report would be national news because it addresses the entire nation rather than small towns within a state.  On Eyewitness News Now, there is occasionally coverage of the Iraq War, President Obama’s addresses to the country, and other larger issues that may fall within the jurisdiction of national news, but it is briefly mentioned as a side-note rather than covered as an intensive story with interviews with influential people in the world.  Despite the fact that local news holds its own importance, I would rather be involved in the national news that has a larger impact and audience.  At the assignment desk, I perform the same simple tasks, such as answering the phone, filing press releases, responding to viewers’ inquiries, and making routine police checks.  These tasks are not mentally challenging for me, whereas at CBS News I was forced to be “on top of my game” and apply my knowledge and creativity to produce something new. I have shadowed reporters only a few times on location and helped identify potential interviewees, but I have merely watched instead of engaged hands-on.  Sometimes I am asked to handle the teleprompter for the Midday News or help write scripts with the producers, but these kinds of things only happen on rare occasions.  The WFSB internship is not as intellectually demanding for me as CBS News was, which can at times make me feel useless as an intern.  I am not receiving the valuable learning experience that I had at CBS News, which I find surprising; before starting the internship, I thought I would be extremely busy and needed at a local news station with less employees.

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Jessica Wachtel is a senior at Trinity College, majoring in History. She is from New Canaan, CT and likes to use her free time to read autobiographies and historical fiction.

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