Summer Internship Report: The New Yorker in DC

Guess post by Gabrielle Melillo

Working for The New Yorker office in Washington D.C. for the past two months has not only taught me many things pertaining to my PWR courses, but also the process a writer goes through when writing an article. My supervisors two of the most respected political writers at the magazine, and they were also two people willing to share their knowledge with me.

Since I worked in a small office, I sometimes didn’t have very much to do, so during these down times, I explored the articles that my supervisors had written in the past. That way I got to see the end product and understand the routine process that they went through to write articles. One of my main responsibilities as an intern was to do preparatory research for the articles that were going to be written. When my supervisors chose a topic for their article, they had me compile as much research as I could obtain into a Google document. This document would then be used as reference for their articles. For example, when one of my supervisors wanted to write an article about Paul Ryan, we began by compiling a timeline of the Congressman’s life. This task took a couple weeks and helped us find people who could be interviewed for more specific, detailed information about Ryan, his life, his goals, and his philosophy as a Congressman.

Though it may seem unimportant to think about the exact way to organize research, it is actually something that my supervisors stressed. Since they were not doing the research themselves, some of the information in these documents was new to them and if they found something they liked, they would put it in the article. However, they needed to be able to find the piece of information easily. For example, I had to research Obama’s “bundlers.” Bundlers are groups of people that donate to presidential campaigns. Once I found a list of all the bundlers, I had to create a small blurb of information for each person. Therefore, to make the information easier to access, I put the names in the same order as the list – which was in alphabetical order. My supervisor could then easily find the reference to a specific person as needed.

At other times organization was not important, especially when my supervisors needed the information in a pinch. One of my supervisors is on a panel on CNN. They give him the topics they will discuss only about an hour before he will be live on TV. Therefore, the time he has to research the topics is limited. Usually he divides the topics between himself and the interns so he gets the information in a faster, more efficient manner. Also for this kind of research, he does not want just bits of information, but whole articles about the topic. With whole articles, he will have a better idea of what the other people on the panel might talk about and what he can say in response.

Not only did I do extensive research about the topics that my supervisors chose to write about, but I also helped them during the writing and interviewing process. Near the end of my internship, my supervisor was finishing a story. To assist, I transcribed multiple interviews. This was difficult because not all of the audio could be heard perfectly, and it is very important that the interview is transcribed word for word – at least what the interviewee says. When the article was completely finished and about to be published, the fact checkers require hard evidence proving all references to a person’s opinion or actions are word-for-word.

If you know that you will be doing a lot of research for your supervisor during an internship, just make sure you know what kind of research you will be doing and familiarize yourself with the proper resources. For example, for political research, make sure you know what sites are credible and which ones are likely to have the most information. Also if there is a specific search engine that the company you are working for uses, make sure you familiarize yourself with how it works and what key words work the best. For example, my office uses Nexis, so I had to quickly learn to use the site.

The most valuable PWR concept I learned about during my internship is audience. When writing for a magazine, you are writing to make people want to buy your magazine. Not only did my two supervisors write about well-known topics, but also all their topics were current and something that many people were discussing. For example, the article about the Congressman was related to who would be selected as Mitt Romney’s running mate. My other supervisor’s article about a religious radio talk show host was relevant to the always current discussion of how much religion and politics intertwine.

All in all, I feel that not only did I learn how to compile research in a short amount of time, but I also understand the process in which writers go through to write an article. I also found it interesting that my supervisors have about three to four months to write an article, while most writers only have a few weeks to a month. This gives them more time to perfect their articles and interview more people. This internship has taught me what research is the best depending on your topic. It also taught me what sites are valuable and credible when writing a political article. I greatly benefited from the experience and will use my recently acquired knowledge in future internships and maybe one day in my career.

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