Andrea Massaro, Class of 2015
The Baltimore Sun; Baltimore, MD
Not the HBO “Newsroom”: Interning at The Baltimore Sun
On my first day of work on a Tuesday morning, I stepped off the shuttle at Peabody and took the two-minute walk to the 500 block of North Calvert. It’s not an ordinary city block; the Baltimore Sun Media Group (BSMG) owns the entire thing, which at the very least made it impossible for me to get lost. Entering a headquarters this size, I’ll admit I prepared myself for failure–– a mediocre intern in a well-oiled machine. My only knowledge of the industry was what I’d seen the night before on HBO’s The Newsroom, and I was prepared to do the same miserable grunt-work as the fictional interns–– and inevitably somehow mess it up as well. I resolved for the final time: I was here to write, and write I would, mistakes and all. This was why I’d accepted the position of features intern at The Baltimore Sun during an already hectic junior fall.
I had never met my boss Rebecca, content editor in the Features Department, before my first day of work because I interviewed over the phone from New Jersey. She was the opposite of The Newsroom’s Will McAvoy: young, calm, and kind. She started by giving me a tour of the entire building, probably to wipe away the panicked expression on my face: “how would I ever find the bathroom?” She showed me the skywalk between the parking garage and the main building; the lunch rooms, where I could buy snacks; even the window seats where I could look out over downtown Baltimore when I took my break. I met all of the big reporters and bloggers in Features, forgetting their names immediately upon shaking their hands. Rebecca talked about the many opportunities I’d have in the future –– how I’d get to sit in that conference room and write for those people.
After my tour, my first job was to copy my insurance details. I thought this was the task that would make or break how Rebecca thought of me for the rest of the semester. And of course the pages I had to copy were stapled. I struggled with whether to run them through this enormous machine that probably weighed more than my car, and then panicked, running back to her desk and asking for advice. Instead of judging me for not knowing how to operate a copy machine, she helped me take out the staples. Her willingness to help set the tone for my experience at The Sun.
Thankfully the highlight of my internship wasn’t making copies. In fact, I never made a copy again. My weekly tasks became more creative and essential as the three months progressed. Each week I was in charge of three operations: the Weekend Events photo gallery, the Weekend Watch newsletter, and the Recently Reviewed Restaurants photo gallery. For the first two, I had to compose a list of the biggest events happening in the Baltimore area, search our database for photos (which stretched all the way back to The Sun’s inception), and write up a small blurb about each one. The Weekend Watch newsletter was a little more complicated, since it included not just events but also the biggest entertainment and lifestyle articles and galleries of the week. Sometimes I’d have to watch the blogs up until my last minute in the office to make sure the most up-to-date post was featured. For the Restaurants gallery, I added photos of food from the most recent reviews by The Sun’s restaurant critic –– which, as you can imagine, led to some pretty serious hunger pains by 1 p.m.
Because of these tasks, I gained an intimate knowledge of events and venues in the Baltimore area, which expanded into some writing opportunities for the Travel section of the printed paper, and for Sun Magazine, the BSMG’s monthly features publication. Nothing’s cooler than seeing your name next to something that you’ve written, something that will reach more than your family and friends on your blog.
My internship focused on the website and I learned a lot about online journalism production. I can now construct a photo gallery on Kosherfest food winners in an easy half hour. I know which photographs are “free use” for the BSMG, and how to credit photos with the names of our freelancers. I know the difference between the states of “live” and “working” (one slip in a drop-down menu could make my work, as yet unapproved by my boss, go live on the website immediately). And most importantly, I know what readers want to see reported. Compounded with a previous internship in public relations, my time at The Sun provided great training in appealing and catering to an audience, skills applicable across many industries and careers.
For The Sun most of the stories must have some kind of local tie. For example, I wanted to compile a photo gallery of ways to prepare for the release of The Hunger Games: Catching Fire, so I narrowed my focus to Maryland, researching venues for archery lessons and theaters that hosted double feature premieres. I loved learning more about film, fashion, and dining in Baltimore; my knowledge of the city has grown immensely.
And the paper’s virtual edition never felt less important than the print edition because equal emphasis was placed on quality production for both. On my second day of work, there was a massive overhaul of the website. There was a lot of focus on choosing the right thumbnails for galleries. One of my jobs was to post our stories and galleries to Twitter, Facebook and Pinterest, maintaining the paper’s profile through a wide network of outlets and sharing sites. It was fascinating to be involved in the shift to online content facing the journalism industry across the world.
I won’t lie; there were moments when I struggled under deadlines, other times when I willed the clock to move not slower but faster. And I made my share of mistakes. There were days when I stayed late, and when I took work home. Out sick one week, under a deadline, I finished a travel piece from my bed, laptop in one hand, orange juice in the other.
But it was worth it. I loved just being in the newsroom. Even though Features was in a corner beside the bloggers and b the site (BSMG’s weekly free young adult publication), I could hear everything. I got a real feel for what a newspaper was like. Coworkers laughed, joked, handed out their kids’ Halloween candy, and questioned each other’s knowledge of astrology. There wasn’t any yelling, no running interns down the hallways, no shouts of “breaking news” –– just this impressive organization of people who met their deadlines and had time to laugh and relax about it, too.
What was special about working at The Sun was the support and the opportunities. I learned about much more than what I actually worked on. I took away a great experience in journalism, and skills I know I’ll be able to use in whatever career I may pursue in the entertainment industry. Turning in my Sun ID was bittersweet; the news will go on every day without me.
If you have or know of an internship you would like to have posted, please email Megan Ihnen.