My internship with the PLCA has taught me so much about how state government works, and it also introduced me to a politically competitive legislative environment. The rotational structure of the program places an emphasis on the hard work that goes into refining a story and explaining complex political or policy topics in such a way so that it is relevant and meaningful for the readers of that individual publication. Quickly, you learn that you have the ability — with the guidance of some of the best long-time, experienced state Capitol reporters and editors — to learn a large, sophisticated state bureaucracy and political environment and hold your own in tackling important urgent issues and stories of statewide significance.
The confidence a PLCA intern walks away with is perhaps the best intangible part of the internship. PLCA interns become accustomed to interviewing lawmakers, questioning department secretaries and connecting decisions made in Harrisburg to everyday Pennsylvanians. I really grew to appreciate state Capitol coverage. I realized just how important the work is and why this program and accountability journalism is so important to the health of the state. And you learn quickly how past decisions — education funding, property tax rate, staff levels at the Department of Environmental Protection — really shape the lives of the state's residents.
You'd be hard-pressed to find an internship program that gets you this level of exposure, is this practical and high-profile and gives you opportunities to cover this many different topics for such a variety of publications and audiences. If you want to move up from covering your local city council, this is the best place to start. Pennsylvania is, frankly, just such an interesting place to cover state politics and government. There are lots of different perspectives on issues and it is annually a hotly contested state for whatever positions happen to be on the ballot that year. There is no shortage of policy oriented or political stories to tell in the Keystone State. Come learn, grow and get better through this program.
Jordan Wolman, 2020 intern
2020 was not the year anyone expected — a racial-justice movement, a presidential election, unprecedented unemployment, and a global public-health crisis. I, like many other college students, was excited to spend my last summer as a University of Iowa student completing an internship in a different part of the country, covering a state government that wildly differs from the Iowa Statehouse.
What was supposed to be a 12-week internship at the state Capitol turned into a remote job I was able to do from my home in Illinois. Still, I learned an incredible amount about government reporting and have dozens of clips that I’m really proud of. I felt like a fish out of water during my first couple weeks covering the Legislature, but there were so many talented editors and reporters who were willing to communicate with me over email and telephone daily. Even from two states away, I still felt like I was getting hands-on experience.
I wrote enterprise stories about student-loan debt and the hardships farmers faced amid COVID-19, and I was also pushed out of my comfort zone with a couple of campaign finance and public record stories. I really felt like I was writing important stories and stories that mattered, and I had a lot of autonomy to pitch ideas that I wanted to pursue. With the help of editors, reporters, and the fast-paced environment, I quickly became familiar with a state I had previously never been to. If you’re someone from outside of Pennsylvania and want state government reporting experience, this internship absolutely can be done!
I truly cannot speak highly enough of this program. I can’t think of any other internship program where I would have received that level of mentorship, independence, and a wide variety of clips that I’m proud to show any potential employer. I knew going into the internship that I had a passion for political reporting, but this program helped to realize that political reporting is a realistic career for me — and that I really enjoyed doing it full time. I would absolutely encourage anyone with a strong desire to grow as a political reporter to apply for this program.
Julia Shanahan, 2020 intern
University of Iowa
In my first week as an intern with the Pennsylvania Legislative Correspondents’ Association, I covered municipal elections, pushed my way into a press gaggle with the governor and collected eight bylines. In short, I quickly realized that I landed a great internship.
I got my fast-paced start at PennLive, where I would write roughly 25 articles over three weeks. Later, I would wait outside the Pennsylvania Senate chambers to pounce on lawmakers as a reporter for Capitolwire during budget season, and drive around central Pennsylvania to interview people living without broadband access while working with the Philadelphia Inquirer and Pittsburgh Post-Gazette. As a reporter with The Caucus, I dug into data and sorted through spreadsheets to land a cover story. Closing out the summer, I learned about broadcast reporting with ABC27, editing a package on one of my last days as an intern.
I loved every minute of it.
I’ll be forever grateful to the people I worked with during my internship, because they taught me a lot. They taught me how to edit a video, how to take photos and write notes at the same time, how to work my way to the front of a press conference and how lawmaking and governing actually work.
But most importantly, my experience in Harrisburg taught me that political reporting is what I want to do with my career, and gave me the confidence I needed to go for it.
So if you’re a prospective intern and made it this far, go for it and apply, because I can’t recommend this internship enough.
Sasha Hupka, 2019 intern
On my first day in Harrisburg for my PLCA internship, I went to the food court with my parents for lunch. As I ate my lukewarm Taco Bell, we marveled from afar at Gov. Tom Wolf, who had just stopped in for some pizza. Within a week, I was interviewing Wolf and other politicians and publishing stories for the top news organizations in the state.
Throughout the course of 12 weeks, I grew so much as a reporter. I had covered politics in my hometown of Philadelphia, but with the PLCA I was able to write technical pieces about the state budget for Capitolwire, a front-page profile on a new state representative for the Philadelphia Inquirer, and participate in data analysis and reporting on an investigation for Spotlight PA and The Caucus. I learned how to write for television with ABC27 and went live on Facebook at a protest for PennLive. Everything I wrote required hands-on work, from staying late to chase the Senate majority leader for comment on the new budget to photographing the lieutenant governor’s mansion and sitting in on a taping of This Week in Pennsylvania.
The real gem of this internship, however, were the Capitol reporters who became my mentors for the summer. I started the summer with Angela Couloumbis, the Inquirer reporter who taught me how to write “jazzed-up ledes” and guided me through my first-ever profile. Brad Bumsted and Sam Janesch trusted me to help with their months-long campaign spending investigation, which taught me how to turn thousands pages of credit card statements into a longform story. Everyone I worked with during my internship is still on my side as I navigate job applications, and I can’t thank them enough.
I came into this internship as a political science and journalism double major, but this experience taught me that there is so much you can’t be taught in a classroom. No other summer program I can find gives their interns such substantial work published in diverse news sources. I can’t recommend it enough.
Alyssa Biederman, 2019 intern
It sounds strange to say that my dream internship was in central Pennsylvania. Aren’t there only cows there? You are probably asking. While the answer is yes outside Harrisburg, it’s also home to one of the most unique state legislatures.
And that’s exactly what the Pennsylvania Legislative Correspondents’ Association internship was to me: a dream from start to finish.
Every day was a new day to navigate the state’s complex political atmosphere. A fresh start to attend a heated committee meeting, run upstairs to the state Supreme Court for documents, or just generally get lost trying to figure out how to get into each chamber.
During my internship, I had the privilege to write about how the state legislature was handling the #MeToo movement occurring within its halls, the Commonwealth Court’s spending habits and secrecy, and the Senate’s close-but-no-cigar effort to redistrict state lines – just to name a few. I also got to make a ton of dumb intern mistakes, learning that there really can’t be a stupid question (A special sorry to PennLive’s Jan Murphy, for breaking a piece of the tripod and almost dropping it in the river).
Even better, I got to learn from reporters I deeply admire and look up to. Some of my greatest insights came from just listening in on the Harrisburg bureau reporters as they refused political spin and never got discouraged as sources turned them down.
I now use the tools I gained this summer each day to report and edit my peers’ work in my capacity as Editor in Chief of my student newspaper, The Temple News, and as an intern at the Philadelphia Inquirer.
Maybe it’s my naïveté as a young journalist, but going to work in the PLCA suite of the Capitol building each day never felt like I had to go to an internship. I looked forward to it every day for my 10 weeks. I can’t think of another internship where you get thrown into a statehouse head on and get to learn the style and philosophy of six news organizations.
The PLCA internship was the best experience and I’ll forever be grateful for my time there. I can’t recommend it enough for any student journalist interested in political reporting.
PLCA Summer 2018 Intern
Temple University Senior
Thank you for the life-changing experience that this internship gave me.