By Grace Getman, FCLC 2022
I knew I was in trouble getting pizza with my friends one night. The conversation had turned to the upcoming 2021 NYC Democratic mayoral primary, and my friends said that they could name all eight leading candidates. Why, you ask? Why could a group of four out-of-staters with little interest in local politics know so much about this race? Because I hadn’t stopped talking about it for this entire past semester.
Last spring, I interned at The Gotham Gazette, a New York City news outlet that calls itself “The Place for New York City Policy and Politics.” The Gazette (GG as it’s affectionately known) prides itself on providing comprehensive reporting on New York City political affairs, with a particular emphasis on issues and races so local that GG might be the only outlet covering them. Depth and breadth were prized over more superficial (but more readable) write-ups at other places.
As a Reporting Intern, it became my job to write up summaries of the various minutiae of the candidates’ platforms, and to cover small forums at which the candidates appeared. My shortest article was around 2000 words. My longest? Over 6000.
To tell the truth, I’m no Pulitzer Prize wannabe. As an Urban Studies major, I discovered GG as a part of a New York City Politics class this fall. I found out about the internship while working (read: procrastinating) on my final and offered my student newspaper experience as my bona fides, despite never having taken a journalism class in my life.
I’ve been drawn to the world of local government for a while now. It is the realm where our day-to-day lives are usually shaped. The garbage we avoid on the street, the parks we go for runs in and the potholes we complain about are local governmental affairs. And yet we treat politics at lower levels of government like Legos we step on in the dark, only acknowledging its existence when we stumble into problems. How many people only realized the influence of city budgets on police reform issues last summer? Or the role of the mayor in New York City after de Blasio started closing schools during COVID?
What drew me to GG was an opportunity for a crash course in New York City politics, and boy, did it deliver. 2021 is viewed as being a major year in the New York City political world, with the pandemic, the introduction of ranked-choice voting and a crowded Democratic field swirling together to create a new political landscape for the city in 2022. If there was a time for me to hop on for the ride, this was it.
Writing about the candidates’ different platforms (such as Kathryn Garcia and transit, or Dianne Morales and the economy) and hearing their ideas at forums was an incredible bootcamp and learning experience for me as someone who wants to work in some capacity in the municipal political landscape. From movers and shakers in New York City to different policies and programs, I was given a real chance to learn as I wrote.
My passion as I discovered this world, of course, became my friends’ problem as I talked their ears off about it last spring, from who the candidates were, their various foibles at forums, or how cool or far-fetched I found their platforms. If any of my victims are reading this blog currently, thank you, and I appreciate your sacrifice. I’m sure they were as excited as I was for the June primaries, even if only for the chance to stop hearing about the race.