Juana M. Ortiz

Open Book at one of the PCCC Library's Tables


My Experience as a Journalism Intern in the Governor’s Office

By Juana M. Ortiz

Juana Ortiz graduated from PCCC in 2009 with an Associate in Arts Degree in Liberal Arts/English and earned her bachelor's degree in English from William Paterson University. She is now an author and motivational speaker.


The year before I graduated from PCCC, I had the opportunity to work as a journalism intern in the office of New Jersey Governor Jon Corzine. I learned a lot from the experience. The entire process of applying for the position, settling into the job, and actually doing the work was important to my educational development. I encourage all students who are interested in working as journalists to take advantage of this great opportunity.

For me, it all began in Fall 2008, when I enrolled in a journalism class at PCCC taught by Professor Christine Redman-Waldeyer.  One day in class, the professor mentioned the journalism internships at the governor’s office. The idea sounded fantastic.  I told her that I would like to try for it, but I wasn’t sure, because I had never worked before  and  didn’t have a professional resume.

Preparing for the Job Interview

Profess or Redman-Waldeyer motivated me to apply and helped me through the entire process. The first step was to organize a professional portfolio.  My portfolio contains samples of my writing that had been published in Visions, the PCCC student newspaper, in Silk City, the College‘s literary magazine, and in the Paterson Literary Review, among others.  It also includes a resume and two letters of reference from PCCC English professors,  one from Professor Redman-Waldeyer and one from Professor Mark Hillringhouse.  Maria Mazziotti Gillan, executive director of the Poetry Center at PCCC, was also listed as a reference.

Starting the Job

I was accepted for the position on the same day that I interviewed, and  I started working  the following day.   At first, I was nervous, but after the first week, I relaxed and started enjoying my experience.  I worked  for the Department of Public Advocate which is connected to the governor’s office.  This department is in charge of providing information and various services to New Jersey residents. I worked for five months from early March to the end of August, averaging 15 to 18 hours weekly. I didn’t follow a specific schedule, because part of the work was done online. I went into the office to work on-site once or twice of month.

My first task was to update media lists. I learned that contact information is organized in many different ways. I updated lists of Latino, African American, Chinese, and Indian contacts as well as those of other ethnicities. Some lists included categories for senior citizens, women, religious publications, and veterans. I also updated the contact information for colleges and universities in all 21 counties of New Jersey.  Revising these required me to verify current names, phone and fax numbers, web sites, email addresses and physical addresses.

Being Bilingual is an Asset 

Being bilingual is an asset in the job. Because I am fluent in Spanish, my responsibilities included translating English to Spanish for website documents.  The Department of Public Advocate will soon be launching a new web site in Spanish, and I was in charge of selecting and translating the information which I consider to be the most important for posting to the community section.  I chose information about senior citizens, people with disabilities, and citizens concerns.    Each of these areas has its own web page, and I translated a total of six selections. The most challenging part of that task was summarizing each piece to be brief, but making sure to include all essential information.

Developing as a Professional

In addition to learning more about the tasks associated with a job in the media, I learned how to dress for an interview, listen carefully, and ask questions when I needed more information to do my job properly.  From this particular position, I also learned a lot about the different types of resources and services that are available for New Jersey residents. Another valuable aspect of my experience was the positive relationships I developed with my colleagues.  I enjoyed working with and going out to lunch with them, particularly Carmen Calvimontes, a co-worker who had moved  from  Bolivia to New Jersey a few years ago and is in now in charge of coordinating translations  for the department.

I recommend that every student should try to work as an intern for the governor’s office or for any other office at the state level.  The opportunity to meet people from different backgrounds and expand your field of knowledge is huge and very rewarding.

Juana Ortiz overcame challenges to complete her education at PCCC and continue on to a four-year university. Read more about her inspiring journey.