One of the best experiences of my entire college career so far has been the opportunity to intern at Westchester Magazine during the spring 2019 semester. As a digital journalism major, I feel that the best experiences and projects come from hands-on work and working in the field. Westchester Magazine allowed me to experiment with writing for different beats, as well as enhancing and expanding my communication skills.
It has always been a dream of mine to work in the entertainment industry as a writer for a magazine or online publication. Whether that magazine was focused on celebrity news, lifestyle inspiration, or fashion and beauty, I wanted to steer clear from the political and investigative journalism field.
While interning at Westchester Magazine, I was given the chance to write my own pieces within the lifestyle and beauty beat of their magazine. When writing articles, I had to conduct the research, fact-check and interview sources that were both provided for me and that I had to contact myself. I’ve always had a little anxiety about contacting people via phone for the first time, especially when calling to specifically extract information from them. Thoughts of doubt and uncertainty would go through my head such as, “What if they don’t want to talk to me? What if I got it all wrong? What if they get offended by the questions I’m asking?” I knew that if I wanted to be working in this field, I had to ask the questions that people are most curious about. Also, the people that I would contact would be sources that were already previously informed and expecting to be interviewed if they hadn’t been already for the piece. So I was nervous for nothing– it’s just something to get used to.
I remember one of my first few assignments was to transcribe interviews that had already been conducted for the other editors. I would sit and listen to the interviews thoroughly to make sure I was getting every word. Although I was only transcribing, I was listening and paying attention to the interviewer’s tone, how they would word their questions, and how they would ask follow up questions. I wouldn’t consider my interviewing skills weak, but when listening to the pros, I definitely found out the little things I could work on and incorporate when it came to me being the interviewer. I think I learned a lot from doing the transcriptions and fact-checking processes.
When initially getting assigned my projects, I instantly thought, “This should be easy, I can probably have this done by the end of the day.” Little did I know, I’d be spending multiple days and even weeks on the same project. While some were faster to complete, others were a lot more time consuming.
While I was introduced to the basics of all of these aspects of the data collecting process during my years at school, working in real time gave me a different perspective. It showed me that everything wasn’t always by the book. I would leave messages, have to correct information, request quotes, and schedule phone interviews– all things that were not as simple as getting everything on the first try. When my articles were complete and published both in print and online, the hard work felt like it truly paid off.
One of my favorite articles that I got to work on was an article announcing the opening of New York’s new biggest indoor waterpark. The pitch was brought to me by the senior director and I was given the freedom to write the story on my own. I had to make a certain deadline so I went straight to work, contacting the waterpark’s PR team and staff, requesting photos and scheduling phone interviews. I was also offered a free day pass to go visit the waterpark myself, and if there’s one thing I could do over while I was there, it would be to have taken the trip to visit! Due to the deadline for the story and my class schedule, I was unable to take the trip up, but it was definitely a nice perk to writing the story for them. Once the story was done, I was told it was going to be included in the latest print issue of the magazine as a full-page story, which blew my mind. Seeing it in print, having its own page, and seeing my name in the byline was really surreal. Read the full article here!
Not only did I write my own articles, but I assisted the editors in the researching process of whatever stories they were putting together. I contacted sources for them, researched new restaurants, equestrian schools, sporting goods, grand openings and local events in Westchester County worth featuring in the issue. While the more collaborative assignments were fun and interesting, something about getting to compose my own articles with just my name in the byline was a different feeling of accomplishment.
Although my time at Westchester Magazine felt short, the amount of experience and feedback that I gained was worth way more than one semester. I was able to experiment with different beats, enhanced all of my journalistic skills, and got to produce some print and online articles that could be used in my portfolio. I also got to meet an incredible team and learn from their experiences and their departments at Westchester Magazine. I was treated like a team member. I got to enjoy the little things like helping taste test cookies that were sent in to be featured in the magazine, getting a sneak peek at my article layouts before they were sent to print, and getting a cake on my last day.
Westchester Magazine hires Pace students as interns and are always at the career fairs, so if you’re looking for a fun internship to introduce you to the journalism field, I highly recommend talking with them!
About the Writer
Sofia Torio is a senior digital journalism major in the Dyson College of Arts and Sciences. Sofia is a contributing writer to HerCampus Pace Pleasantville as well as a member of the Pace Dance Team and Entrance One PR Agency.