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Extra! Extra! Sophomore Stakes Out Claim to News

Banas with reporter John Purcell at Delmar Spotlight News

For Jake Banas, the month of January was all about journalism.

The Keuka College sophomore and Delmar resident spent most of the month writing for The Spotlight, an independent news organization headquartered in his hometown, near Albany. Spotlight News produces five weekly editions in Albany, Schenectady and Saratoga counties, with a combined circulation of more than 45,000, according to its website.

Each Keuka undergrad conducts a 140-hour internship, known as Field Period, every year en route to a bachelor’s degree. An English major, Banas had begun to write for the Keukonian, the student newspaper at Keuka, and decided to learn more about journalism by pursuing an internship with his hometown paper.

Banas started by proofing pages for grammatical errors before the paper went to press for a Thursday distribution. From there, he began writing short event announcements submitted by local organizations, and gradually worked his way into full-scale, bylined articles—transitioning from shadowing reporters to being a reporter himself.

“The first day I walked in, everything was very hectic, because it was a Wednesday and they were trying to finalize the paper and get it out [the next day]. People were yelling back and forth and I was kind of scared, not sure what was happening,” Banas said. “The next day it was all quiet because everyone was out doing assignments and getting ready for the next issue.”

His first major assignment was an interview with the owner of the Junk King garbage removal company for the paper’s regular “Spotlight on Business” feature. Other assignments found Banas at the local school district board of education meeting, or taking hundreds of photos of different town locales. As each article went into print, Banas said it was “incredible” to have something he wrote published. Most of his work ran in the Bethlehem Spotlight, he said, while a few articles ran in other editions.

“There’s a lot more to journalism than people think. I expected it to be so simple, [thinking] you just hear a story and write about it but I learned you want to keep your ears open for specific things,” Banas said. “You have to go out and work with people and gather information and there’s a lot more to take away from it than just sitting there, writing the news.” (more…)