I graduated from Louisiana State University in 2014, and I’ve been with The Advocate for almost two years now, and I work in Baton Rouge (we also cover New Orleans and Lafayette).
Q: What do you currently do at The Advocate?
Andrea: I cover City Hall and local government in Baton Rouge, and I generally focus on our mayor, our 12-member Metro Council, agencies that receive tax dollars and some nonprofits as well. But city government is so vast, and I’m constantly still learning about ways in which our local government shapes — or tries to shape — nearly everything that happens in the city. And whenever there’s an interesting Baton Rouge news story that does not necessarily fall into a certain beat, it often falls to the City Hall bureau.
Q: How’d you end up at this specific newspaper?
Andrea: One of my LSU professors had some connections at The Advocate and encouraged me to go there and meet with the editors and just talk to them about what I was looking for after I finished a summer internship at The Wall Street Journal. That turned into an interview process, and The Advocate offered me the job covering city hall. I liked the idea of covering government, and The Advocate was also growing and expanding at the time — a rarity in the journalism world. I accepted it.
Q: What internships have you had and why did you apply to those internships?
Andrea: A huge emphasis is placed on internships for journalism students at LSU. Professors frequently talk about them and have contacts at newspapers where they try to place students nearly every summer.
I interned at The Wall Street Journal, The Dallas Morning News, The Sacramento Bee and a weekly called The Independent in my hometown of Lafayette, La.
I got The Independent internship simply by reaching out and asking if I could spend a summer there after the summer of my freshman year at LSU.
I was lucky to build up some decent clips at my college newspaper, The Daily Reveille, and I had professors with connections at both The Sacramento Bee and The Dallas Morning News. I applied my sophomore year for Sacramento and my junior year for Dallas (along with many others both of those years). In Sacramento, I got to spend the summer rotating through different departments and working with different editors. It was my first experience working for a daily newspaper and I was so inspired by it. In Dallas, I got to intern on their enterprise desk. It was an incredible and rare experience for a college student to get to spend a summer writing long-term enterprise stories and learning about the craft of writing.
Everything builds on what came before it. I was torn during my senior year of college about whether to apply for internships or whether I should only apply for jobs. But I had always hoped to land an internship at a national newspaper, so I fired off a few internship applications just in case. I could hardly believe it was real when The Wall Street Journal emailed me and said they wanted to interview me for their Chicago bureau’s internship. I had applied to them before and was rejected my sophomore and junior year. They offered me the position, and I got to spend the summer writing stories alongside some of the best reporters and editors in the nation. Two years later, I am still in awe of everything I had the chance to do there and how awesome of an experience it was.
Q: Did you move for your job? If so, what advice do you have on deciding where and whether to move?
Andrea: I went to college at LSU, which is an hour away from my hometown, so I had lived in Baton Rouge for four years before accepting a job at The Advocate in Baton Rouge. But I did go to a lot of new places for internships. My advice would be that you have to realize the tradeoff you will make whether you move or stay. You might feel boxed in if you stay where you are and like you need the chance to spread your wings and do something different and new, which is why I would really encourage going new places for internships. But you also might go somewhere new, work at a fantastic organization and realize that the grass is not always greener and you maybe dislike the feel of the city. I don’t necessarily think that there is a right or wrong answer, just that a lot of factors should play into the decision.
Q: What advice do you have on finding an internship?
Andrea: It’s important to be proactive and to be early. Do not sit back and wait until you get a notification that somewhere is looking for interns. It’s all easy enough to find online, so scout places that you are interested in and find out what you need to do to apply to them. Many places have internship application deadlines as early as October, so internships should be on your mind at the beginning of a school year.
Be persistent and do not be easily discouraged. I applied three times for The Wall Street Journal’s internship before I got it. Many major news organizations will say that you need to have interned at a daily newspaper before they will even consider you. Use your professors, professional connections and other people in your networking circle to help guide you on where to go and to put in a good word for you in your application.
I would also really encourage people to go to different cities for internships if they can afford it. It is so rewarding to spend a summer in a new place learning from editors and other reporters who have perspectives you may have never heard before.
Q: What should you do get the most out of internships?
Andrea: You need to be dedicated and devote as much of yourself as you can to that internship. Don’t cut corners, don’t be lazy. Show that you are willing to work hard and willing to fight to make a story come together instead of saying “nobody called me back.” And if you feel like you are not getting the chance to do the type of work or write the type of stories you want to write, pitch your ideas to your boss. The worst they can do is to say no, but they might also give you the opportunity to do something amazing. When I interned in Sacramento, I saw that the Olympic gymnastics trials were going to be nearby in San Jose. I thought it would be cool to attend them, so I asked my editor if I could get credentials to cover them. They agreed, and covering them continues to be one of the coolest reporting experiences I have had. I also made some great friends during my internships who also are now professionals working in the world of journalism. It’s awesome to see the work that they are doing, so make friends and stay in touch.
Q: Between the Alton Sterling shooting and the Baton Rouge Police Ambush, what were you tasked with? How would you say internships helped prepare you for this coverage?
Andrea: I’ve helped with coverage in the aftermath of both events, though I was out of town when the first Alton Sterling protests started and again on the day at the police officers were killed. With Alton Sterling’s shooting, many protesters accused our mayor of not being visible at the time. So I spent much of that week writing stories about protesters at City Hall, mayoral visibility and I wrote some enterprise stories about policing and racial divisions in Baton Rouge. With the police officer killings, I’ve covered all three funerals and am in the process of covering how our local politicians are reacting to the killings with policy changes.
When I was in college at LSU, a graduate student announced that he would burn an American flag in the middle of our campus parade grounds, where many students hang out and people tailgate on football game days. It turned into a major protest, with thousands of people yelling and jeering and he was eventually chased off campus and the flag burning never happened. Covering that protest for our college newspaper, The Daily Reveille, as a freshman at LSU taught me so much about writing about protests and controversial issues. As far as my internships go, learning how to write under pressure has really helped with some of these stories. Learning how to craft good narratives and turn event coverage into stories that say something about people has also enriched my reporting, especially for the funerals. I find that nearly every lesson I’ve learned at an internship has turned me into an overall better reporter, writer and critical thinker, all of which help me on a daily basis.