Here at The Bridge, we’ve been fortunate to have two journalism-school interns join our team for the summer. Graison Dangor and Anurag Papolu, students at the CUNY Graduate School of Journalism, have been all over the borough in the last few weeks on their assignments to report stories, take photos, and shoot video.
Since both are relative newcomers to Brooklyn, their internship has been a crash course in Kings County geography, from Greenpoint to Coney Island. Before coming to The Bridge, Dangor, a native of Farmington, Minn., with a degree in English from the University of Minnesota, had never before worked full-time on an editorial staff. “I’ve been published as a freelancer for the Star Tribune, the main newspaper in Minnesota, and in Al Jazeera. But all my experience has been working by myself on my laptop. It’s much nicer to be able to talk in person to the team about whatever we’re doing,” says Dangor.
Both have moved swiftly up the learning curve of local-news coverage. “Every video I find, shoot and edit helps,” says Papolu. “I feel like I’ve gotten to know the city a lot better and produce work a lot faster than we’re required to in school. I see how school is not the same as work. I think that’s very useful experience to have,” said Papolu, who grew up in Hyderabad, India, and received a BA from the Rochester Institute of Technology, where he studied design and photography.
While The Bridge covers Brooklyn business in general, the interns have found that individual stories call for quick study on specialized industries. “I’ve definitely gotten better at jumping into topics I know nothing about,” says Dangor. “I covered an event where tech companies for real-estate finance pitched their startups to potential customers and investors. I had to learn on the fly, both about the details of each company and the context of the real-estate industry that made the startups potentially valuable. It was fun and really good practice developing that muscle,” he said.
Dangor has reported on stories as diverse as the expansion of the Brooklyn Army Terminal, a souvenir shop in Gowanus, and the inequalities in Brooklyn’s economic boom. Papolu has written about how to start a business as well as stories and videos about a fencing academy and the World Cup’s business boost for the borough’s bars and restaurants.
The interns said they felt the significance of immersing themselves in local-news journalism, which faces an economic crisis but remains vital to communities. “Being able to say that I work for a local-news site and having people open up to us is a great feeling,” says Papolu. “They know the story will be read by others in the area. In the profession, we all know that local news is important to the media landscape and communities as a whole, and it’s great to be able to contribute to that.”
Despite this week’s mass layoffs at New York’s Daily News, the interns held out hope for the future of journalism–and their roles in it. “I’m not worried about Uber-style disruption, and I think news outlets will eventually figure out how to make money again,” says Dangor. More worrisome is the pattern unfolding at the Daily News, he said. “The paper is being raided by its new owners. They’re going to cut their way to profits, then take those for themselves instead of reinvesting it. They don’t care about journalism. It’s just another industry with distressed companies to strip all value from.”
Papolu believes the major changes now may bring promising innovations. “I’m not sure what the future business models of news will be, but journalists should try different alternatives and see what works,” he says. That applies to journalistic methods as well, he says. “There’s a failure of communication here. I don’t see enough experiments with news on a local level. I wish I saw more of those.”
“The most rewarding thing I’ve done so far,” says Dangor of his internship, “is the latest story we’ve all been working on. Reporting on the local economic impact of new immigration policies has been rewarding for all sorts of reasons. It’s hard to imagine something more important than listening to people whose families and livelihoods are being threatened. To have people share their stories with me, and to help tie them together into a story that will help people understand the impact, is something I’m grateful to be able to do here.”
The biggest lesson he has learned so far? “The lesson is that nearly always, regardless of the story, the answer is more reporting.”