Her Campus Logo Her Campus Logo

Words From a Former New York Times intern

This article is written by a student writer from the Her Campus at Maryland chapter.

women on phone and laptop

Photo by: HerCampus

What sparked your interest in journalism?

This sounds really cheesy, but my parents would always leave the news on in the house when I was young. From sports news to local news, it was always on. I watched Good Morning America pretty much every day, so I slowly began to realize how cool news reporting was. When I was a kid, I just thought it would be awesome to get paid to travel around the world, ask questions, and write about these experiences because I have always loved travelling and talking. It made sense that someone would at least pay me to do it! I settled on it one day in seventh grade for a project because I didn’t know what else to write down when they asked us, “What do you want to be in twenty years?” I had no idea, so I just wrote that I wanted to be a journalist and move to London because I really liked London. I just never changed my mind.

two women having an interview

Photo by: HerCampus

What clubs/organizations have you been involved with on campus? How has the experience in these clubs helped you?

The first couple of organizations that I joined here actually were not journalism ones. I joined two law organizations right off the bat. I joined the pre-law fraternity here at UMD, and my mentor for that organization happened to also be a journalism major, so we naturally became very close. I joined mock trial, which did not have any journalism majors in it. I joined the staff of the Jewish interest newspaper here on campus called Mitzpeh for about a year to hone my skills and to figure out that I wanted to do copy editing. I was working as a freelance writer for Unwind magazine for a little bit, and I got my first big story out of that, which gave me a lot of confidence for my future in journalism. 

You interned at the New York Times this summer (which is EXTREMELY exciting!!) What was an average day for you on the job? 

My days usually depended on the main stories that were coming in, which is something that I really liked about my job. This is also something that I really like about journalism; you never really have the same day twice. On my regular days, I would come in, grab a snack from my boss, and wait for an email from my boss to be further instructed on what I should accomplish that day. The email would include the story of the day; who was doing the headlines and captions, who is in charge of what story, and other things like that. I’d essentially just get my stories and my sections and work on them right as I received them. I’d go in at 4:30, and my first deadline would be at 8:30 for the big national edition every day, so that was my first priority. I would work on headlines, captions, blurbs, and other “big-text” kind of things. I would have to run them by different editors and would send it to the section editor of that day, who was in charge of the whole section. Some days I would be working on the national news stories, and other days I would work on international stories. Twice a week I would work on the business section, which had different rules that I had to learn as I went. This was a big portion of my job; simply learning as I went. You could argue that a big part of my job was making mistakes and being told “we do things differently here so fix this” and I would respond “okay” and fix it right away. 

We would also go through a copy that was put out already and make sure everything was correct and that there were no random typos. Sometimes a story would come in really last minute if a big event occured, which had happened before when I was working; these are very stressful occurrences, and you just have to accept them. I remember former Justice John Paul Stevens from the Supreme Court passed away one day when I was at work. It was a Tuesday I believe, and we found out about it at 8:26 and the deadline was at 8:30. We were all, of course, freaking out. Sometimes you hear those things and you have to ask the person who found the news, “are you sure?” or “did you double check?” The first edition still had to go, but we had to change some pages for the second. It sounds chaotic, which it was, but it was also a lot of fun. 

A man in a spiderman costume reads the newspaper on top of a building

Photo by: HerCampus

What did you learn from your internship?

You learn how to be wrong a lot, and how to be okay with being wrong. I learn things all of the time and be told I was wrong about something around 3-5 times a day. The NYT has a lot of specific style rules that I was not used to, and I think that a lot of people just have to get used to them as they go. I was told by so many people that these things had to be learned overtime rather than overnight. I also learned how to not be afraid of being wrong. I don’t like it,I don’t think that anyone does. Sometimes I would be a little nervous being wrong and I remember I had noticed some sort of mistake, and I didn’t want to say anything because I felt awkward correcting someone. I finally told one of the editors that I was comfortable with that something was off with the wording, and she responded, “yeah, because it doesn’t make sense.” I was unsure of what to do, and she was like “okay, you are going to tell the head of this section.” It was very nerve-wracking for me. I also learned that half the time, I have no idea what I am doing, but neither does anyone else. 

If you had any advice to journalism majors here at UMD, what would it be?

Honestly, just do not be afraid to do things and take initiative. I did not know that this internship was coming, I was not even shooting for The Times initially. It was scary when I got the call and afterwards I was really nervous going into it. It was the internship of a lifetime. A lot of it is just being confident in yourself, in what you can do, realizing that you are going to be wrong a million times, and realizing that you bring a lot to the table as a young person in this field. Being in the world of journalism, there are a lot of people that actually want to know what young journalists have to say. It’s not always obvious, but sometimes it feels like you have to fight to be heard. I did not really have to at the Times– everyone was very wonderful and responsive.

Isabel Russo

Maryland '22

Isabel Russo is a senior communication - public relations major at the University of Maryland double minoring in general business and creative writing.