my internship experience

Sean Ahern '09, a Communications Studies major from Delmar, N.Y., who is involved with The Courier and the track and field team at Colby-Sawyer, was an editorial intern for three months with Spotlight Newspapers, a local weekly newspaper covering Albany, Schenectady and Saratoga Counties in New York.

How did you find this internship opportunity? What was the application process like?

I found my internship by looking at newspapers in my region that were hiring summer interns. The Spotlight is pretty well known in the area and I thought I would give them a shot. It was an unpaid internship, so I also worked at my local Price Chopper, as I have for the last three summers.

What were your most important duties and responsibilities as an intern?

I was responsible for writing news stories and compiling “shorts,” small non-byline stories that are sent to us by members of the communities we cover.

What skills were required to fulfill this internship?

Solid writing skills, as well as an understanding of how to write as a journalist, how to act in a professional setting, and how to deal with problems as they present themselves.

How does this internship intersect with your studies at Colby-Sawyer?

My work as editor-in-chief of The Courier helped give me a background in what I was preparing to do at my internship, as well as Media Law and Ethics with Professor Meade and Writing for Public Communications with Professor Berghorn.

What challenges did you face, and what triumphs did you enjoy, during your internship?

Not all news is what you see on TV or read in the New York Times, a lot of it can be mundane. Making a town planning board meeting sound interesting is harder than it sounds. The worst part is trying to make the legal and political jargon make sense to a reader.

What have you learned during your internship that might be useful in your professional life?

I've learned how a newsroom works, how to write stories that are interesting and thought provoking, the ins and outs of talking to New York State Assemblymen, and making a deadline with time to spare.

When you talk to your friends and family about your internship, what do you tell them?

It's interesting. When I talk to my family about what I am doing they are blown away; seeing my articles every week just makes them so proud. People know me in my community, so when they see my name on a byline they can't get enough of it. A friend's grandmother came up to me at a party to tell me that she agrees with what I wrote about this subject and that subject - I had only met her once before that, and it just shows how much people pay attention when you are writing about their community.

Do you think this internship will lead to employment with the company after graduation?

I like writing for newspapers, but I don't think I am ready for a daily paper - I think you can get a lot more information out of working on a piece for a week or two. I want to work in magazines (online or otherwise), and being at a weekly paper helped me to figure that out.

What do you think of Colby-Sawyer requiring an internship?

It really has to do with the student - if you go out and look for a good internship it will help you later on. If you do one just because you have to then you won't get as much out of it. In my last week at the newspaper I was working on an article on the Bigger Better Bottle Bill in the New York State Assembly and got to call up assemblymen and senators….it was awesome. Colby-Sawyer's requirement of an internship helped me do something I would have otherwise not thought about doing at all.