Stephanie Byrne is a senior at the University of Florida who aspires to be a reporter. She is a summer intern for the CBS-affiliate in Orlando, WKMG, when the Pulse Nightclub shooting occurred. She ended up being the first WKMG reporter on the scene. Here is her personal take.
I was back in my hometown when the shooting unfolded (I’m from South Florida). Around 8 a.m., I was already on my way back to Orlando to help in the newsroom any way I could. As I was heading up there, I received an email with one of the addresses registered under the shooter’s name (located in Port St. Lucie). I decided to get off at the exit, and I spent my day sending updates to News 6 while the FBI and other law enforcement personnel searched the home. While I was there, I called in to News 6 during our wall-to-wall coverage and did a Q & A to describe the scene to our anchors. During the day of the tragedy, I was working alone in Port St. Lucie (calling in, doing Facebook lives, etc.). I spoke to bystanders in the neighborhood and local convenience store employees. I, along with reporters from other stations, was able to speak to one person who knew the shooter (as an acquaintance).
I think during the first week after the shooting, I was in work mode. I was solely focused on completing any tasks given to me. When I would go home, I would find it difficult to decompress because I would continue watching and reading news coverage. While at work, there would be a few moments where I would have tears in my eyes, but it took some time to truly process what had happened. I volunteered to go to the home in the first place, because I only lived about 15-20 minutes away. During the week, I was responsible for logging press conferences and interviews with survivors and law enforcement. I was also responsible for searching for any new angles regarding the shooting (for example, vigils or community events).
As an aspiring reporter, this tragedy did not change my mind in entering the industry. If anything, I felt more compelled to work in news. The nightclub shooting was absolutely horrible. In light of the massacre, the Orlando community proved itself to be a resilient, tight-knit city. The event motivated me even further to become a reporter because of the stories from survivors and the friends and families of the victims. It is so important to remember the victims because they each had a story to tell. They all had dreams and ambitions that will not be realized, but they have loved ones to carry on those legacies. The stories from survivors are crucial, because their accounts will speak for those whose lives were cut short.
The part of the day of the shooting that stood out the most to me was when I completed an interview over the phone during our newscast. It was essentially a crash course in how to report live at the scene with very little information. The best I could do was describe the surroundings and explain why the home was relevant to the shooting.
For those looking for an internships, start off with finding one in a field of your interest. For me personally, I have been interested in news from a very young age. Also, if you have the means to, try an internship outside of your home or college town. I go to UF in Gainesville and I live in South Florida, so Orlando provided sort of a midway point for the two. I wanted to work in Orlando because it’s within the top 20 television markets in the country. I also wanted to work somewhere where I wasn’t too familiar with the area. My final piece of advice is to cast a wide net. Don’t get discouraged if one place turns you down. I have been turned down for internship opportunities in the past, but I kept a positive outlook. I am a firm believer in “when one door closes, another one opens.” Be flexible, be resilient, and be positive. I only have a few weeks left of my internship in Orlando, and looking back at my experiences, I don’t think anything will ever compare to working here this summer. I am so thankful for the opportunity to work and network here.