Monday, September 13, 2010

Reporting for The New York Times

Watch from 35:27 - 42:25 for SJP alum Andrew Boryga's TV appearance, where he discusses his experience reporting for The New York Times.

By Andrew Boryga (Bronx, NY)

With the publishing of my hip-hop museum article a little over a week ago, I officially wrapped up my second internship with The New York Times, though the technical end date was sometime in August. I worked for the paper last year as a reporter for a blog in Brooklyn called The Local, but this summer by far was the most productive and enjoyable. 

From day one, I felt like a real reporter. Check that, I was a real reporter. I showed up expecting to be introduced to people at the Metro Desk, maybe even a little chummy lunch with a reporter or editor, but instead I was thrown right into a story. They told me they needed to find nannies, so I called up my buddy Joe who has a three year old daughter and asked him where all the kids play on a Wednesday in June. He told me about a couple spots in Central Park, and this was the result. 

The rest of my summer went somewhat similar. I would walk in and get sent to various places to do legwork for a story someone was writing. It was exciting because every day was different. One day I was in Forest Hills interviewing people about their lawns and the next I was riding buses in Staten Island talking to passengers.

About a month into my internship and a few contributing reporter tags under my belt, I got my very first print article published. Getting published in The New York Times was a goal I had since I was a student at SJP in the summer of 2008 and reaching my goal at 19 years old was unbelievably gratifying. I received so much positive feedback from my friends, family, SJP, and local publications in the Bronx –– I even had a short TV appearance (video above).

I rode that kite for a while, and worked on some other projects and a month later I got my second print byline, one that I shared with a really great reporter named James Barron. The story involved a sentencing, and I got the chance to experience what a lot of people in the building told me is something of a ritual for budding reporters––court stories. It was an intense scene, with over 30 reporters and even more cameramen stationed in a small space fighting for interviews. I learned a lot about the business that day and how other journalists work.

For the most part, my first two stories were fairly simple: straightforward, not much writing. However, my last story about the hip-hop museum made my internship.

Throughout the summer I had been pitching stories to editors at the Metro Desk and repeatedly got shot down. One day in August I had a conversation with a brilliant Metro writer named Manny Fernandez. He used to cover the Bronx and we spoke about a proposed hip-hop museum there a few years back. I got interested in the concept and he passed along some contacts that might know more and I called up another amazing reporter named David Gonzalez who gave me a rundown of the situation and even more contacts. By the end of that week I had about ten people to call, and I called every single one and realized the how murky the situation was and more importantly that a real good story was there.

After I got the OK from my editors I spent the next month chasing the story. I made call after call, trips to various places, and rarely ate lunch. I got to know the copy editors real well because I routinely stayed in till about 8 or 9 PM talking to someone, getting notes straight, or working on one of the 10 or so drafts the story went through. The whole time I wondered if the story would even make it out. My editors never guaranteed me anything, and my only shot was making the story compelling enough for them to look at it. 

The story ran almost a week ago in the Sunday Metro section. I can’t describe the feeling I had opening that paper and seeing half a page devoted to something I authored. It was the culmination of all the hard work, all the missed parties, road trips, television shows, and everything else a kid could expect in a summer. Seeing that article, I knew it was all worth it. It was a testament to the fact that if you really want something and pursue it with a passion like no other, it will happen.

--Boryga is a sophomore at Cornell, a reporter for The Cornell Daily Sun and 2008 alumnus of the Princeton University Summer Journalism Program. This is his second summer interning for The New York Times.