PITTSFIELD, MA -- Sometime in early May, I was sitting next to Associate Sports Information Director Kris Dufour in the scorer's box at an Eph baseball game when I mentioned my desire to work for the local newspaper, The Berkshire Eagle over the summer. Kris immediately said he knew a guy and told me he'd contact him. That guy was Kevin Moran, the Executive Editor of The Eagle, whom Kris had previously worked with at The North Adams Transcript. Before the day was over, Kris had put me in touch with Kevin and I had an interview lined up. Within a few weeks and thanks largely to Kris, I secured an internship as a Features Reporter at The Eagle.
For the past three summers I worked in the Williams Sports Information office, which proved to be an incredible opportunity and a lot of fun. When Sports Information Director Dick Quinn wasn't telling me a story about a legendary Williams athlete or I wasn't gushing with Kris over the timeless talents of David Ortiz, I worked on a combination of large projects and smaller updates for the Ephs' athletics website. Some of my accomplishments included the creation of the Men's Soccer Record Book, a redesign of the Athletic Facilities web page and writing feature profiles for the football game day program. My positive experience working in the Sports Information Department both in the summer and during the school year sparked my interest in pursuing a career in journalism or communications.
When I showed up for my first day at The Berkshire Eagle in early June, I had very little sense of what role I would play. I hoped that I would have the opportunity to do some writing, but I was certainly prepared for more menial assignments behind the scenes. Unbeknownst to me, I was about to get tossed into the fire for the next nine weeks as a full-time Features reporter.
|Eric Hirsch '19|
On my first day, my new boss and Deputy Managing Editor for Features, Lindsey Hollenbaugh, informed me that she wanted me to write a story about a new flavor at a nearby frozen yogurt place; due in just three days. Thanks to Williams, I am no stranger to writing papers on a deadline, but news reporting is different. I had to make phone calls, set up interviews, drive throughout the county to meet people, conduct interviews, identify the true story, write, and edit my story. Three days was not a lot of time. Story assignments and deadlines can pile up quickly. Despite all the stresses of the job, I learned that reporting also has several unexpected perks.
First, I greatly enjoyed meeting and talking with people from all over the county. Everyone I interviewed or corresponded with was, almost without exception, friendly and more than willing to help. Whereas some national headlines had me believing that journalists are maligned nearly every step of the way, I actually found it to be quite the opposite, at least on the local level. When it comes to features, most people and event organizers love getting press. The ability to meet people from all over the county and feel like you're doing them a service was something I found rewarding.
Second, working as a local reporter exposed me to places and events in the county previously unknown or unfamiliar to me. Even as a longtime resident of Berkshire County, I saw more of the county in the last eight weeks than I had in the previous 16 years. My job took me to every public beach in the county, every park in the city of Pittsfield, and to beautiful towns I'd never step foot in including: Sandisfield, Tyringham, and Egremont.
Third, reporting forced me to improve and expand my daily news diet. By nature of working in a newsroom, I read the paper front to back most days. In addition, I closely followed the national news through a variety of outlets on all ends of the political spectrum. Simply reading work by other professional reporters whether local news, opinion pieces, film reviews, a game recap, or health tips is instrumental to improving news-writing skills. Everywhere I could, I tried to pick up little things, like how to write effective ledes, different quoting techniques, where and where not to inject personal voice, and where to put details of varying levels of importance. Now as I near the end of the internship, I believe my writing has improved and that I am well versed in the local and national news.
Of course the job had its challenges and there was a steep learning curve. As any journalist will tell you, conducting quality interviews, both in person and over the phone, is an art, and an art that I have yet to master. Taking a press release and a couple interviews and trying to find the real story can be difficult as well. Even after identifying an interesting story, I sometimes struggled to present it in a clear and gripping way to readers.
Deadlines and editors don't have any sympathy for writer's block. I also had to become comfortable with spending many hours alone in my car driving all around the county and even to southern Vermont, not to mention all the inevitable mistakes I would make along the way. Yet through it all, I am proud to say that I had over fifteen stories with my byline published in The Berkshire Eagle. The topics of these stories ranged from my experience at a Yoga retreat center in Stockbridge to a rock concert in North Adams to an art exhibit in Bennington.
I would be remiss if I didn't acknowledge some of the people at the paper who made my internship at The Berkshire Eagle such an overwhelmingly positive experience. Executive Editor Kevin Moran gave me a chance and entrusted me with a considerable amount of responsibility. Lindsey Hollenbaugh always answered my questions and was always patient with me. Interning at The Eagle was a great way to spend the summer and will no doubt help me in future endeavors.
Although the newspaper consumed much of my life the last nine weeks, I spent much of my free time training for the upcoming soccer season. I am thrilled to return to campus for my junior season and get back out on the field. We have a fun group that is united in its goal to win a lot of soccer games in the fall and I'm looking forward to getting everyone back together in September.
Eric Hirsch, a resident of Williamstown, is a junior midfielder on the Eph soccer team who has contributed three summers and during the academic year to Eph Sports Information as a basketball and baseball writer.