On the rise: Nick Weiss

Nick Weiss, a member of this year’s SRL Academy, will be documenting his intership experience at WITF in Harrisburg, Pennsylvania this summer. Nick’s internship is sponsored by the Corporation for Public Broadcasting’s American Graduate: Let’s Make it Happen initiative.

Week 6:

These past two weeks have been especially busy, so it’s strange that I only have two more days at WITF. I’ve been so focused on this internship that it’s hard to shift mindsets into going away to school.

I was a bit crunched to finish my piece and it was a challenge, but I got it done on Sunday. It needs a few more audio edits, but just one more export and it should be ready to go.

Something that really meant a lot to me last week was when Tim helped me with recording my voiceovers. The instructions he gave were a real privilege to hear, almost like getting guitar lessons from Jimi Hendrix. It changed how I approach journalist presence in video and gave me a better idea of how I want to further develop my brand.

Learning radio was different. It’s not like writing for TV, and of course visual storytelling ability doesn’t translate, so I think I’ll be getting a lot more creative in how I use audio in the future to create better and more dynamic scenes.

Working with shoulder mounted P2 cameras with Doug was great as well. Probably not many people going into their first semester of college have that kind of experience with industry grade equipment, or an internship for that matter.

This has been more of a leap than I could’ve imagined. Before I began here, I hoped I would learn a lot and was excited, but I had no idea what to expect. Now, it has turned into an extremely positive experience and I learned more about local politics, public media and journalism than I ever could have hoped for in my first internship.

Here’s hoping college will be an equally positive experience.


Week 5:

I can’t help but be continually inspired by the story of overcoming addiction. Reviewing the time I spent with Britton reminded me of how powerful addiction is, how real it is and the fact that it’s everywhere.

It seems that many generalizations are made when talking about addicts and I think that’s a scary thing. Statistics sometimes disconnect a sense of empathy from people. Realizing such a huge problem with numbers can help to affirm the issue, but hearing Britton is so important.

Mark McCullough from the RASE Project talked about people only seeing failure in drug addicts.  But if no one believes in an addict, he said, they won’t recover, because they don’t believe in themselves.

When Britton talked about living with addiction and being able to move on, that’s when I really realized that that is the most important component to this story. Addicts can recover and move on and function, just as society needs them too, but believes they can’t. Mark said an employer choosing to hire an addict can be a lifesaving opportunity. It’s sad to think about how many addicts relapse in early recovery because they don’t feel supported.

So, the goal of this story is really to say “Yes, this is a problem, but it’s more than a statistical tragedy: it’s a tragedy that affects everyone in every community and requires social change to ultimately be solved.”

Now that I’ve gotten all emotional, here’s my status report: my story spine is clean and sparkly, I just need a lot more footage. I’m going out on a shoot to the Penn State Hershey Medical Center in Palmyra in a few hours and also to Lebanon to put together some sequences I have in mind, but here’s the curveball — I have to find a new person to help me film my stand ups next week. I’m going to be having some exhaustingly long days, but I’m having a lot of fun.

I’m still learning a lot about storytelling from all of the reporters here — radio is different than what I’m used to — and I’m definitely taking away a lot of skills, specifically in writing, that I don’t think I will learn in film school.

Speaking of school, I move in at Penn State University on Aug. 20, so I really only have next week to finish this story up. Crunch time’s the best time, I just have to chow down on about a baker’s dozen of b-rolls and then we’re ready for supper.

Week 4:

I expected this week to be busy and it did not disappoint.

On Tuesday, I had my first interview with doctor Jon Shapiro at the Pennsylvania Medical Society. He works with addicted physicians. It was a great interview, but I’m concerned about b-roll because I wasn’t able to film much in the clinic due to patient confidentiality. I’m going to have to get a little creative on that side of things. Shapiro’s interview has already been transcribed.

Notice the encouraging note above. That note and the voice of photojournalist Luanne Dietz, who lead a storytelling workshop at the SRL Academy earlier this summer, saying repeatedly in my head “Transcription. Is not. A waste of time,” got me through.

Two days later, I was in Carlisle at the RASE Project offices to interview Mark McCollough, an addiction specialist and former addict who works with the nonprofit. RASE helps addicts receive treatment and reintegrate with society after getting clean. Mark’s interview went great. Well spoken, good sound bites and plenty of b-roll, but it was a bit lengthy.

I also filmed Britton, a former opiate pill and heroin user, on Friday. After a brief 15 minute interview at his house, we went to a parking lot where he used to shoot up heroin and purchase drugs and talked for 20 minutes about addiction, addiction education, addicts and communities, as well. That went very well. He mentioned meeting addicts that were doctors and how they would prescribe to their other physician friends who were also addicted. I thought that was an interesting connection to Shapiro.

It seems, before I have transcribed the other two interviews, that this story is somewhat about the hope that addicts need and how and why the community should support them as they try to get clean. The concept of universality with addiction is relevant, but education also comes into play. Britton talked about how his curiosity with drugs wouldn’t have gotten the better of him if he was educated properly. There’s also a legislative angle looking at prescription databases that have been implemented in other states and the program coming to Pennsylvania that could help the problem. That angle would likely require quite a few stand-ups, and that’s generally not in my taste as a producer.

I hope to finish transcriptions and put together a spine on paper next week, while also writing some stand-ups and voiceovers to see where my role as the journalist comes in when connecting and directing the story since, as the interviews have shown, there are quite a few ways to go with it. I’m relatively comfortable with the progress made this week, but there’s much to be done.

Week 3:

I spent the week setting up the rest of my interviews and continuing to contact my subject, Britton. I have a good grasp on what I’m looking to film, but I still need to become a bit more familiar with the equipment here. I’m not too worried about that, but most of my filming should occur next week.

I’m excited to really see this story. I’ve spent so much time writing, planning and researching. Of course, all of that is necessary, but it’s made me very eager to get to the actual shooting process.

I found my third interviewee as well, Mark McCollough from the RASE Project. RASE is a nonprofit that assists people suffering from addiction by helping with things like inpatient treatments. Mike should really be able to shed light on the problem with the animosity people have toward people suffering from addiction in their community, as well as causes and how addiction affects all people, regardless of socioeconomic status.

Aside from feature developments, I’ve been kept busying with uploading stories to the WITF website, transcribing interviews and working on audio edits. Next week, I get a camera in my hands.

Week 2:

When I started to brainstorm topics for my news piece this week, I sort of committed to heroin and pill use quickly, or maybe subconsciously. Coming right out of high school, I saw firsthand the young people that fill the current demographic for opioid users, so I’m compelled to tell some of those stories and highlight this issue that affects so many.

So far, I’ve contacted two interviewees. Britton, my youth perspective, has a powerful story that I think a lot of young people will understand. Just talking over the phone, I really empathized and connected with him.

Week 1:

It’s amazing to experience the industry I’ve admired and wanted to pursue since I was a sophomore in high school. Being atWITF in Harrisburg, Pennsylvania has really helped me explore a side of media that I’ve only seen on television, heard on the radio or read on the internet.

I’ve heard professionals talking about how vital internships are to aspiring journalists. All the young, ambitious student journalists in high school had general ideas about what such internships would be like, when in reality there was no way to accurately predict.

Now I’m here right out of high school and there’s no longer the need for daydreaming, just hard work and gratitude. I know that not too many people intern before college and my time here is already beginning to prove invaluable.

After only three days, I’ve begun focusing on a topic for a story. A big issue in Pennsylvania is heroin and opiate pill usage. I did some documentary coverage of the issue as a high school student and it remains one of my largest areas of interest as a journalist. I hope to investigate the gateway properties that prescription opiate pills have on young people who ultimately turn to heroin.

Yesterday, I had the opportunity to take photos of Pennsylvania Governor Tom Wolf with the WITF’s capitol correspondent Mary Wilson. That was a great experience to have on only my second day.  

A reporter at WGAL in Lancaster also gave me his card and told me to give him a call next summer. When that happened, I thought back to the professionals talking about internships as door-openers.

There’s no need to imagine anymore.