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Smith Senior Headed for the Times

By Jennifer Gabrielle ’06

By the time she got to Smith, April Simpson ’06 well knew what she wanted to do professionally and had already garnered ample experience in her chosen field.

This May, when she graduates with a bachelor’s degree in American studies, Simpson will leave Smith with a resume full of experience as a journalist. A summer internship at the New York Times and a one-year position following at the Boston Globe in the fall will add stellar entries to her resume. She will be returning to the Boston Globe, where she also interned last summer.

It’s not every day a graduate from Smith, which has no formal journalism program, lands such competitive internships, sought as well by graduates of the country’s top journalism schools.

The secret to Simpson’s success? “I started early,” she says -- as in high school, when one of her teachers encouraged her to take a newspaper class. She became intrigued during the class by the way her hometown, Homosassa, Florida, was subdivided in terms of class and mindset.

By the end of high school, she was intent on studying journalism, Simpson recalls. She entered the University of Florida and got a job writing for the student-run Independent Florida Alligator, an investigative periodical with “a lot of clout on campus,” says Simpson. “Just starting out, I was lucky to be in an environment like that. I really learned a lot from the people I worked with.”

Building on her experience at the Alligator, Simpson moved on in summer 2003 to work as an intern for the St. Petersburg Times, a large, urban newspaper, writing general assignments and features at the publication’s bureau in her hometown. She also combed local police records to identify story ideas, a precursor of her future passion.

But Simpson was looking for a more rounded educational experience, and as a sophomore she transferred to Smith in pursuit of a liberal arts education. Now finishing up her American studies degree, Simpson works as a peer writing counselor at the Jacobson Center for Writing, Teaching and Learning. She belongs to the Black Students’ Alliance, and plays the piano in her free time.

Still, journalism has remained her passion. During her first semester at Smith, Simpson interned at the local Daily Hampshire Gazette reporting campus news.

Her journalism experiences led to a 10-week summer internship in 2004 with the Portland Oregonian, at which she discovered her niche on the paper’s crime team. “I made it a point to do crime internships,” explains Simpson, “because regardless of whatever writing I’d end up doing, recruiters would look for that background. If you can do the crime stuff, you can at least get your foot in the door.”

The next door that opened for Simpson was her first internship at the Boston Globe last summer, where she worked on the Metro desk with many different editors, continuing to write crime and court stories as well as news features.

Simpson attributes her success largely to having a liberal arts background and taking advantage of the open curriculum at Smith.

At the New York Times, Simpson will work on the education desk, where her main focus will be public schools. “I’ll be able to pitch stories to other sections if time permits,” she notes.

Simpson looks forward to the intense experience of the New York Times internship. “They’ll treat you like a staff member, so it’s pretty intense,” she explains. Her writing will be compared not to other interns, but to the Times staff writers.

However daunting it may seem, this challenge will prepare her for the year-long position at the Boston Globe, where she will cover City Hall, the State House, Education and Metro sections for three months each.

“I’m excited about living and working in Boston,” says Simpson. “I like it there a lot. And there are some amazing people I’m looking forward to learning from.”

Beyond her Boston Globe internship, Simpson makes no projections about her career path. For now, her near-future internships are enough to handle. “It was always my dream to intern at the New York Times,” she says, “[but] I don’t think it’ll catapult me to any one place. I’m kind of just seeing where this will take me.”


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