The Columns

Interns at Work: Faith Pinho ’18 WBUR, Boston’s NPR News Station, Boston, MA

— by on August 31st, 2016

Faith Pinho '18

“Before this summer, political journalism was a bright idea but a far-off goal. It has finally become an exciting reality, and now there is no doubt in my mind that it is the path for me.”

What attracted you to this internship?

I am a born and bred NPR listener. I was the kid in the back seat who listened to public radio every time my dad was in the driver’s seat. Around eighth grade, I began tuning into the local public radio stations myself. Every time I was in my room or in the front seat of my parents’ car, I would turn the knob to WBUR. I always say it was the reporting and the stories I heard on NPR that inspired me to pursue political journalism. When I decided to stay at home in Boston for the first summer of my college career and do a local internship, I immediately looked up available positions at WBUR.

How did you learn about it?

From years of listening to NPR, I knew that their stations offered internships. I did a little research on Google and learned the necessary information for applying to the WBUR internship. I also found stories and reviews from past interns at NPR stations, all of which described amazing journalistic experiences in glowing detail. I had a good idea of what I would be getting into when I applied.

What gave you the edge in landing this internship?

The internship coordinator at WBUR — the guy who reviewed all resumes, conducted all interviews and made the hiring decisions — said it was my resume that initially peaked his interest and my interview that got me through the door. I didn’t have much journalism experience to date, but my work for various Massachusetts government offices and political campaigns apparently convinced him that I was versed in the Boston political world and would be a good fit. In the interview, I expressed my passionate desire to learn the ropes of Boston’s news scene and to work for one of the country’s largest NPR stations. And, of course, I showed that I was comfortable interacting with strangers — an important skill for an aspiring journalist!

Describe your daily duties.

The first thing I do is “read up”: go through all the news stories of the day and familiarize myself with the main ideas and important details of each one. The station uses a database that keeps track of the various stories and their most recent updates.

From there, I am usually assigned to write “a reader.” The Newscast section of the newsroom is responsible for producing a rundown of important Massachusetts news at the beginning of every hour. The whole newscast only lasts between four and six minutes, so each story is usually less than 30 seconds long. The reader that I write is a short script summing up one news story. That reader is printed out — along with several of the other important news stories of the day — and given to the host, who reads it on air.

Throughout the day, I write several readers and do any research that is necessary for the completion of a story. That may involve calling a few people or scouring the Internet for more information. Everything, of course, has to be confirmed with a source. I also interview people directly through the phone and get sound quotes to put in the newscast.

On some days, I will be sent out to get sound at some city event. That is absolutely my favorite duty. So far I have attended press conferences and events at the Massachusetts State House, covered a rally celebrating the nationwide legalization of same-sex marriage and recorded sound at a breaking ground ceremony for a new development project in Boston. Back in the newsroom, I edit the sound into short clips and write a reader to accompany them for the hour’s newscast.

What are some tasks/projects you’ve been working on?

There aren’t many long term projects to be working on since the newscast is produced every hour and the stories must be timely. In my spare time though, I am working to produce an entire newscast myself. That means researching several stories, writing readers for all of them (some with sound quotes), organizing the stories according to importance and, finally, recording them. None of this will be sent out on WBUR’s airwaves, but I will keep them in my personal journalism portfolio.

Have any courses and/or professors helped you prepare for this internship? Which ones?

I took Journalism 101 with Prof. Kevin Finch my first semester at W&L. Not only did he teach me the basics of different types of journalism (including the complexities of networks and their affiliate stations — I never was able to understand that before!), we got to know each other well enough that he wrote a wonderful recommendation for me, boosting my application to WBUR.

John Muncie, W&L’s intern coordinator for the journalism department, was also very helpful in securing this internship. He reviewed (and re-reviewed and re-re-reviewed) my resume and cover letter and gave a lot of invaluable advice during the application process. It is because of his suggestion to pursue small, local journalism that I am also working this summer for ECTV, the community television station for the City of Everett.

These two were instrumental in helping me to enjoy a summer packed full of amazing journalism learning experiences.

What do you hope to learn by the end of your experience?

I hope to hone my ability to localize a story. Whenever big, national stories are happening, WBUR reports on it from a Boston-focused angle — often in creative ways I wouldn’t imagine. By the end of the summer, I want to be comfortable reporting on a story from any local angle.

I also want to develop my questioning skills. Journalism is a fast-paced industry and one can never think of questions fast enough!

Lastly, I hope to improve on critical thinking. A journalist should be able to detect untruths — or simply not-quite-true truths — in an interview and ask provoking questions that will draw out the real, true truth.

I know I have already learned much in these three fields, and I plan to get even better by the end of the summer!

What was your favorite part or perk of the internship?

My favorite part is definitely the field assignments. Usually right after a public event at the State House or City Hall involving important government officials such as the governor or the mayor of Boston, there will be an intimate press conference called a “media scrum.” Journalists from news stations across the city of Boston press together (press, ha, ha) around the governor or the mayor with microphones extended, asking hard-hitting questions about important issues. I always feel simultaneously blessed and starstruck to be in such close proximity to news gatherers and government leaders, people who are so integral to the success of this country’s democracy.

Bumping into Tom Ashbrook on my way to the bathroom is pretty cool, too.

What did you learn from the city where the internship was located?

I have always lived in Everett, a neighboring city to Boston. Growing up, I spent a lot of time in the capital city, whether for work or play. This summer, I am becoming much better acquainted with city officials. Now, instead of hearing about them on the news, I am the one calling them to ask questions! They are no longer simply a voice giving speeches or a face in newspaper pictures. I see them on a more personal level, as real people in real working positions.

What key takeaways/skills will you bring back to W&L?

Honestly, I think one of the most useful skills I will be bringing back to W&L with me is the ability to write succinctly and quickly! After writing for an hourly newscast, I have no excuse for procrastination on future college writing assignments…

On a more serious note, I know I will be more inquisitive going back to school. In this journalism internship, it is necessary that I understand every facet of a story for me to write about it. I am growing comfortable in persistently asking questions until I receive an answer. I’m sure I will apply this skill in classes next year during times when I don’t understand the material.

What advice would you give to students interested in a position like this?

Be a news junkie. Read, listen, watch — do whatever is your most comfortable form of news consumption, but just make sure you consume. One of the questions in my interview was “What is your daily news diet?” Every day on the job, I realize how helpful it is to have background information on the stories that make the news. It is also a good idea to be a regular consumer of the publication where you would like to work. If you want to intern at a TV station, watch some of their news shows everyday. If you want to work for a newspaper, read their articles everyday.

Write regularly — all different forms of writing. Radio newscast writing is different than a feature article in a magazine, which is different than a newspaper opinion piece. Journalistic writing is an acquired skill that can always be improved!

Has this experience influenced your career aspirations? How so?

I am so, so thankful to work at WBUR this summer for many reasons, one being that I am now confident in my ambition to pursue political journalism. I wake up everyday excited to go to work and I go to bed every night reeling with new ideas about how to improve myself and further my career goals. Before this summer, political journalism was a bright idea but a far-off goal. It has finally become an exciting reality, and now there is no doubt in my mind that it is the path for me.

Describe your experience in a single word.

“Motivation.”