Politics is not just a fun topic to bring up in bars or at the family dinner table. It’s a constant struggle over who gets what, when and how, and if you choose to ignore it, you’ll be ignored.
My fascination with politics began long before my internship at the Legislative Gazette, but my interest writing for the newspaper was one of the main reasons I enrolled in the journalism program at the State University of New York at New Paltz.
Reporting about politics at the New York State Capitol was my chance to see how the system really works, and to find out who it truly benefits. And five years after I completed the internship, it is still one of the most beneficial experiences of my life.
Most students participate in the internship during the spring semester, when the state Legislature is in session. Being a transfer student, I wanted another semester in college, so I signed up to work for the Gazette during my final semester, in the autumn of 2012.
Any worries I had about a lesser experience were quickly dashed. Even in the off-season, the political football never stopped moving at the Capitol.
I recall almost daily news conferences about a variety of subjects, from safer toys for kids to term limits for politicians. I remember live blogging from Empire State Plaza when a protest against the New York SAFE Act took over downtown Albany. There was also the time when I asked Gov. Andrew Cuomo a question in the famous Capitol Red Room. I can’t remember the specifics, other than there was a good amount of shaking on my part, but I’m sure it was a riveting question.
We also benefited from an exciting election season, which included the race for the presidency and a particularly interesting contest for a seat in the U.S. Congress.
These events made for great fodder during our editorial meetings with Dr. Alan Chartock. My dad was always a huge fan of his, and with my interest in radio journalism, I quickly became a fan of his too. The chance to discuss and sometimes argue our views with someone of his caliber and character was an experience I will never forget.
I can say the same for my experiences in the Gazette newsroom. I developed great friendships. But most of all, I gained a great mentor in Editor James Gormley. He had a great nose for news that mattered. He could explain longstanding political truths in Albany in ways even a naïve college student could understand. He would fix our grammar and spelling and catch cringe-worthy errors before the paper went out the door. I am forever grateful to him for helping get my journalism career off the ground.
After the internship, I was hired at the Poughkeepsie Journal, a daily newspaper in New York’s Dutchess County. My time at the Gazette prepared me for the rigors of a newsroom and taught me how to cultivate sources, break down stories and interact with an engaged audience.
Today, I write automotive, insurance and travel content for AAA motor club on Long Island. While it’s not reporting in the traditional sense, I still interview, write and judge what matters to my audience. And in case you’re wondering, my fascination with politics has not dwindled, and my heart has only grown fonder of my time at the Legislative Gazette.