Journalism student enhances resume at summer newspaper internship
Chloe Kowalyk, a junior at SUNY Fredonia, had a front-row seat to the outpouring of community support extended to needy residents in a Buffalo neighborhood devastated by the mass shooting at a Tops Friendly Market last May.
We all read about it; she experienced it.
At a summer internship with Bee Group Newspapers, Ms. Kowalyk wrote a timely feel-good “Buffalove” story about former Buffalo resident Greg Schwert, now living in Cleveland, who collected donations from many people in his adopted city and made several long trips to Buffalo to ultimately deliver over a ton of food and other necessities to food drives held there to aid residents while the East Buffalo grocery store was shuttered following the shooting.
She met and interviewed Mr. Schwert, a graduate of Williamsville South High School, at the Tops location on Jefferson Avenue and took photos of him to accompany the article that landed above the fold on the front page of the Amherst Bee, one of nine weekly papers in the suburban newspaper chain. Clearly a crowning achievement for someone who’s building a portfolio and aspires to work in the media.
“For me, the key takeaway (of the internship) was getting to connect with people in my field that would give me great advice and show me what it takes to be a great reporter.” – Chloe Kowalyk
Kowalyk’s newspaper internship was one of 97 summer internships completed by students through the Career Development Office at SUNY Fredonia. She described her internship experience in a PowerPoint presentation to first-year students during the Honors Program orientation.
“'Buffalove' is a phrase that Greg Schwert seems to live by.” was the lead of Kowalyk’s article. She went on to chronicle the four trips he made to Buffalo, culminating with the last one in which he was somehow able to pack 717 pounds of food into his car. That shipment upped total donations to over a ton.
“As a Bills’ fan, Schwert called this fourth trip ‘fourth down and goal,’ and hoped to reach his goal of donating one ton of food from all four of his trips,” Kowalyk wrote. It was her first article she wrote for the paper, and her favorite one, too. Kowalyk’s byline was ultimately attached to a dozen stories.
Writing hard news as well as features, covering government meetings and then reporting the actions that were taken, were among primary duties of Kowalyk’s internship, but she also handled proofreading and copy-editing duties and shadowed editors on layout and pagination of pages. She wrote obituaries, edited press releases and generated story ideas in collaboration with editors. Every Bee paper ran at least one Kowalyk-written article.
The 2020 Depew High School graduate experienced how reporters at weekly papers wear many hats. Writing articles about community activities, reporting on actions taken by village and school boards, as well as compiling police reports and covering what’s happening in the business community, are the bread and butter of weeklies, she learned.
“I got a lot of hands-on experience in my field,” said the first-generation college student majoring in Communication: Journalism and Psychology, with a minor in English. She’s also enrolled in the Honors Program.
Objectives of Kowalyk’s internship ranged from effectively reporting on news that impacts the public and applying storytelling techniques learned in the classroom through writing and the use of visual elements to building relationships with sources and members of the community. Writing the police blotter, a summary of incidents of crime, was a new experience for Kowalyk.
“I greatly appreciate all the people at the Bee for kind of taking me under their wing,” Kowalyk said.
According to Department of Communication Associate Professor Mike Igoe, Kowalyk has consistently demonstrated to be a solid student who has delivered excellent work throughout the three years she’s been enrolled in his journalism courses. “She always goes the extra step to make her work stand out,” Mr. Igoe said.
“Likewise, she has sought my input on her Leader stories that may have legal concerns to them,” added Igoe, who is Kowalyck’s academic advisor and a lawyer and member of the New York Bar. “So, you can see she is serious about honing her craft.”
Kowalyk was an especially good fit for the credit-bearing internship. A veteran at The Leader, she is steadily advancing through the ranks of SUNY Fredonia’s student newspaper. Kowalyk started out as a staff writer in her first semester and became assistant news editor and then news editor as a sophomore. Today, she’s the managing editor.
Other resume-building media experiences Kowalyk is amassing at SUNY Fredonia include serving at Fredonia Radio Systems, as public relations director and producer, and WNYF-TV, as a producer and staff representative.
“It’s impressive she’s involved with three student media organizations,” Igoe noted. “But even more importantly, she’s actively involved in them.” Igoe, advisor to Fredonia Radio Systems, indicated Kowalyk worked extremely hard to make the Rockin’ the Commons event a success. Igoe believes Kowalyk will be a successful journalist in whatever area of media she becomes involved.
Kowalyk learned of the Bee Group Newspapers internship through a flyer Department of Communication Associate Professor Ros Smith shared with students enrolled in the Communication programs. She was paid for the internship through the New York Press Association.
Did the Leader experience help prepare Kowalyk for the internship?
“Absolutely! When I went in, they expected you to already know AP style and how to interview and take photos, so (the internship) was more like an enrichment experience than to teach new skills. Without The Leader, I would have been in the dark,” Kowalyk reflected.
At the same time, Kowalyk learned aspects of the media not typically taught in a classroom.
“For me, it was challenging because I usually write for the college newspaper, The Leader, so I’m used to covering campus stories,” Kowalyk said. Making the switch to see news “through a community lens was a big shift for me, but it was a good change,” Kowalyk reflected.
What was the big takeaway from the internship for Kowalyk?
“For me, the key takeaway was getting to connect with people in my field that would give me great advice and show me what it takes to be a great reporter,” Kowalyk said.
The internship at the Williamsville-based newspaper chain is already paying dividends for Kowalyk at The Leader. “I learned a lot more about AP style and professional writing, and also increased my confidence in my writing.”
Kowalyk’s supervisor, Bob Kupczyk, gave Kowalyk the best compliment she – or any other student upon completing an internship – could hope to receive. “My managing editor said he would hire me right away if I was graduating now,” Kowalyk said.