Spotlight PA is an independent, nonpartisan newsroom powered by The Philadelphia Inquirer in partnership with PennLive/The Patriot-News, TribLIVE/Pittsburgh Tribune-Review, and WITF Public Media. Sign up for our free newsletters.
HARRISBURG — Spotlight PA’s coverage has benefited greatly from two stellar Pennsylvania Legislative Correspondents’ Association interns who are rotating between Capitol news outlets this summer: Shaniece Holmes Brown, a 22-year-old Lincoln University grad, and Lindsay Weber, a 22-year-old Macalester College grad.
We wanted to introduce them and let them explain why they decided to take up political journalism, especially now, how to handle mealy-mouthed answers, and whether journalism’s as glamorous as the movies make it look. — Colin Deppen, Spotlight PA
Spotlight PA: So, why journalism and why political journalism?
Holmes Brown: I have wanted to be a journalist since I was a kid because I love to write, meet people, and see new places. Journalism is the opportunity to do all three, and I have a passion for “being a voice to the unheard.” Learning about the issues people face in different communities every day and getting to share them is very important.
Weber: I’m interested in how policies affect people’s real lives. I studied political science in college because I graduated high school right around when Trump was elected and felt my understanding of what politics can look like in the U.S. shift, and I felt like I had to find a way to make sense of it. I joined the student newspaper during my first semester of college and fell in love with writing and reporting, and stuck with it all four years.
Spotlight PA: What’s been the biggest surprise of your PLCA internship thus far?
Holmes Brown: Working during budget season was a wake-up call to the ups and downs of journalism I had never experienced before. I’ve learned to keep my eye out and pay close attention because when something happens, it is quick and coverage needs to occur quickly. Reporting is far more straightforward than trying to make things sound nice. Actually, it isn’t about making things sound nice. It is telling the truth as authentic and unbiased as possible.
Weber: It’s really different from the reporting I’m most used to, which is reporting on student issues for the student newspaper the Mac Weekly. Talking to politicians or spokespeople who are really accustomed to media attention and speaking with reporters is a whole different ball game than interviewing college students. I’ve learned to always be prepared before an interview and to keep asking more questions when I don’t get a direct answer!
Spotlight PA: Any tips for other students who might consider this field or a PLCA internship?
Holmes Brown: If you are interested in this internship, be prepared for rapid growth and learn to trust yourself. The journalists you work alongside are very helpful and hands on and will push you to become stronger and efficient in your reporting. Trust your abilities, be ready to grow more, and heed all advice you are given.
Weber: It’s more important to come into it excited to learn than it is to know everything about politics already, so don’t be afraid to ask questions. It’s better to be sure of something and ask a question that might seem obvious than not ask, guess, and get it wrong.
Spotlight PA: What are public misconceptions about the job, maybe even misconceptions you previously shared?
Weber: I think a big misconception is that it’s impossible to break into journalism in this day and age. It certainly isn’t easy, but there are still ample opportunities to break into the field and plenty of people willing to prop up young journalists.
Spotlight PA: True or false: Journalism is as glamorous as the movies make it look.
Holmes Brown: Honestly, it is not a “glamorous” profession. It is fun, exciting, and keeps you on your toes, but the work is not always at the most popular events or jaw-dropping coverage.
Weber: Definitely false.
WHILE YOU’RE HERE… If you learned something from this story, pay it forward and become a member of Spotlight PA so someone else can in the future at spotlightpa.org/donate. Spotlight PA is funded by foundations and readers like you who are committed to accountability journalism that gets results.