Listening to the radio in the car is a popular way for people to keep up to date with current events. For Megan Lello '10, a government major and English minor at Franklin & Marshall College, it can also be surreal—especially when the person delivering the news is herself.
Lello completed an internship at WITF-FM in Harrisburg last summer, the result of a Sidney Wise Public Service Internship from the Department of Government. She returned to the station in December to work as a part-time employee, hitting the airwaves and gaining professional broadcasting experience.
"One day, I was in my car and heard one of my reports," Lello says. "It was an out-of-body experience. When I heard my voice, I said, 'Do I sound like that?' It was crazy. To hear it was a thrill."
Lello worked with Stanley Michalak, The Honorable and Mrs. John C. Kunkel Professor of Government Emeritus, to find a place to conduct her internship. They decided on WITF, a public radio station that reaches 17 counties in Central Pennsylvania. She scheduled a tour of the station, and got the job on the spot. Lello worked in Harrisburg from May to August.
"Right away, I was thrown into reporting," says Lello, who writes for The College Reporter and has her own radio show at WFNM. "I worked with one other intern, and we'd take our microphone and recorder out on the street and interview people. Then we'd come back, edit sound cuts and write copy."
Each of Lello's stories had a local angle. Her first assignment was the Democratic primary for the Harrisburg mayor's race, in which challenger Linda Thompson defeated longtime Mayor Stephen Reed. Not much later, she covered local reaction to the U.S. Supreme Court nomination of Judge Sonia Sotomayor.
"I had been following the Sotomayor story, so I really enjoyed covering it," Lello says. "We contacted Hispanic organizations and interviewed Puerto Rican Americans. I love doing local journalism, and it was great seeing how national and local issues come together."
Lello quickly gained the confidence of her supervisors at WITF. "I loved the trust they had in me from the first day. It was a real hands-on experience, not an internship where you're just getting coffee for someone."
Still, there were challenges. Lello spent the first couple of weeks learning the technical aspects of the business, including the jargon used by WITF employees. She also had to learn the editing process, and how to operate the computer programs.
"It was a daunting first couple of weeks," she says. "I had no knowledge of editing before the internship. I was not only interviewing and writing, but also editing sound. I had to learn what types of cuts were good for radio."
The news team at WITF was so impressed with Lello's work that it asked her to return in December, when Scott Gilbert, the station's news director, took two weeks off to spend time with his newborn baby. Lello's internship prepared her for the experience, which included more airtime than her summer gig.
Lello looks forward to a career in broadcast journalism, and hopes to land a full-time job at WITF or someplace similar after she graduates in May.
"I never thought about a career in journalism until I got this internship," she says. "It was a hands-on experience, and I'm very lucky. It was a passion I never really pursued."