A WNYC Internship - One Woman's Experience

May 30, 2019

Dominique Jack is a 23-year-old Brooklyn College graduate whose high school-obsession with Korean K-Pop music opened the door to a career in radio journalism. Dominique, a Brooklyn-born first-generation American whose parents emigrated from Trinidad, recently completed an internship at New York Public Radio station WNYC.

The station’s New Jersey reporter, Karen Rouse, interviewed her about her experience.

Karen: So tell me about this K-Pop world that lured you into radio?

Dominique: There was a Korean radio show called Blue Night that I really loved and I listened to it whenever I was home. The hosts would talk about the news, but also about how people feel about different things that are going on in the world, and in their their local communities, and their society and just try to start a dialogue, with the intention of people kind of getting to know other points of view.

Karen: So I understand in college you created a show at Brooklyn College modeled after the Korean talk show?

Dominique: Yeah, so I when I was in school - I think it was in my second to last semester - I spoke with one of the professors who was in charge of the radio station, and he said you can have your own radio show and you can talk about this because this is really not a topic that we have anyone on air talking about right now.

Karen: Tell me about your show.

Dominique: The bottom half of the show was a talk show. We would look at a prominent issue going on in the K-Pop community. So, there was a story of a girl who had kind of gotten bullied a lot because she was a lot bigger than most other K-Pop singers. And, so we had this conversation about body image for women and the body image that we see in media how that affects women.

We also talked about the role that entertainment can play in like changing laws because there was a show in Korea that led to perpetrators of sexual violence ... paying more fines and having to deal with more consequences.

Karen: What kind of radio training do you have and where did you get it?

Dominique: In school, we practiced editing and then when I came to WNYC was the first time kind of doing that in more of a professional environment. I also had learned a little bit about it too when I was at my previous internship [at WBAI in Brooklyn] but they used a different different editing software.

Karen: What stood out for you when you transitioned to WNYC, versus a college station?

Dominique: What was surprising to me is how different people’s responsibilities can be even among people who have similar titles … I was kind of surprised to learn that producers do a lot of writing, a lot of editing, a lot of their own interviews, and … kind of do things that reporters would do but reporters are the ones who get to go out more.

Karen: Can you share some of your experiences?

Dominique: They sent me out to do VOX a lot at [New York] City Hall rallies and also committee hearings ... I definitely learned how to conduct those type of interviews when it comes to public officials, when it comes to dealing with sensitive topics - the best way to phrase the questions so it doesn't come off as either slighting, or come off as insensitive to a particular issue.

I also learned about editing a lot more when I was there and, how to select good tape for air …how to kind of be more organized as a reporter after you come back and you've got all your tape … I think I've learned just, in general, a lot about the process behind producing a piece.

The first time I went out I went with a reporter named Gwynne and she taught me when you're on your way back to the station you want to listen back to the tape on your recorder and kind of just write notes. What did this person say that maybe would would make a good bite? …That way when you get back to the station, you're not sitting there for an extra hour listening back to everything you just got.

Karen: Any other tips?

Dominique: When you're listening to these press conferences (look at) what are some things that the audience responds to when someone says something. That might make a good piece of tape. Also, not just looking for a piece of tape that is conveying information, but also looking for stuff that conveys emotion, because that's something that you as a host or the person reading the script may not be able to do so.

And, when you come back to the station make sure that the first thing you want to do is dump everything on the computer. God forbid you're stuck accidentally deleting it!

Karen: How else did you use your time during the internship?

Dominique: I tried to take advantage of building connections with people, not just who were in the newsroom, but people who were in the Narrative Unit, people who worked on different podcasts that I was interested in like, 10 Things That Scare Me or Trump Inc. … Talking to people over at [sister classical music station] WQXR to kind of get to know the different positions that are in podcasting and how podcasting differs from daily news production.

Karen: Were there any interesting reporting experiences in the field?

Dominique:  I always had an interest in transit stories. I was able to talk to the reporter  Shumita Basu and she gave me the opportunity to go out and help her do a story on the L train. That was a lot of fun.

Karen: Now with the internship done, how do you keep up your skills.

Dominique: I'm working part time at another station, but I don't necessarily have the opportunity to have as much of a hand in the creative process as I did at WNYC. So now, … I try to pitch stories more because that was something that Richard told me when I was there, to practice pitching more.

I try to do writing just, you know, to keep myself in practice. And, just recalling the things that I learned when I was at WNYC - to try to edit more and try to go out and just do stories about things that I hear in my local community. Even if it doesn't end up posting anywhere, I just try to produce those things to stay in practice.

Karen: Okay -- Can I ask you about your gloves?

Dominque: Oh yeah (laughter). Everybody’s like, “Oh is that like a fashion statement? Are you trying to be like Michael Jackson?”  

I wear my gloves because I have a condition called hyperhidrosis. It's just overactive sweat glands in my hand … Because of the excessive sweating on my hands, it just makes it difficult for me to do normal things, so I wear the gloves to soak up the sweat.

When I was a kid my my pages would constantly tear when I was writing in school because like my hand would soak through my notebook and it was so frustrating. I was like Why is this happening?

Now that I wear the gloves it's much easier for me to kind of hold a whole paper...

It’s like a trademark. It’s kind of the thing people know me for. That’s fine.

Karen: Any final thoughts about your internship?

Dominique: The thing I appreciated the most was the people who were willing to spend time with me - whether it was just sitting down for coffee and just talking to me about their job so that I can understand, “What does a reporter do that's different from producing?” and kind of just giving me their insight and their advice as to how I can be a better intern moving forward in my career  

I was able to learn every day and be supported in the learning process, but also be able to contribute to the team. So for me, at the and of the day, it felt very fulfilling. That’s something I’ll cherish.

Karen Rouse is WNYC's New Jersey reporter and a member of the PRNDI Communications Committee.