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Getting an internship

OK – it is internship season again for us – we are reviewing applicants for the Fall (and hopefully soon for the Spring/Summer.)

I sat in on a panel with Russ Kendall at the NPPA conference in Lousiville last month – and  we were both amazed that not only did we have many of the same complaints about student applications, we actually used one of the same students (anonymously) as an example of what NOT to do.

So, I should have titled this ‘how not to get an internship’ and so it is – with the caveat this that is based on past experience not this month’s round of applicants.

1 ) Don’t ignore directions. Read the ad. If it says no calls, then don’t call. If it asks for a cover letter, please do so.

2 ) Do not under any circumstances send only an email with a link to your portfolio. No matter how good it is, that is not a job application.

3 ) Don’t have typos in your letter or captions. Spellcheck. Spellcheck again and then have someone else proofread for you.

4 ) Don’t interview unprepared. Research the paper you are applying to. Each is different and boilerplate responses are not going to score many points.  I always love to ask – “So, can you critique some of the multimedia you have watched on our site?”

5 ) Don’t be cute. This is an internship, not summer camp. Please be creative with your presentation but keep it professional. No hand-made CD holders or pictures of your cat/friends/significant other in a sunset on your letterhead or CD label.

6 ) Don’t ask about the pay in your first contact. No, it is not a lot, Yes, it is enough to get by. Save the financial discussion for a second interview.

7 ) Don’t apply if you are planning to join the Peace Corps/take another job/want the summer off.

8 ) Edit, edit. edit your still images as tightly as possible. Pictures of celebrities are typically not portfolio worthy just because. Presidential candidates: ditto.

On the ‘please do’ side:

1 ) Be professional.

2 ) Demonstrate you understand the paper’s needs and how you will help fill them.

3 ) Explain what you hope to learn and why here.

4 ) Be knowledgable about the business of newspapers.

5 ) ‘Get’ the Web.

6 ) Oh yeah – have some great photos and multimedia to share – and be excited to talk about them.


  1. Grant Morris
    Grant Morris August 30, 2008

    I got into journalism for the same reason everyone did. Money, power, women, and social adoration.

    It’s working out pretty well for me so far haha.

  2. Anonymous
    Anonymous August 30, 2008

    Grant – one out of 4 is not bad. And of course I mean the money.

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