By Marcus Foster
An internship in any newsroom (large or small) should be considered an honor. A station or publication has shown an interest in grooming you to be the leaders of tomorrow. You are getting valuable, hands-on experience and real-world lessons. At the same time, you are building a resume/reel that could land you your first job. You are also making connections that could help you get that first job or help move you to the next level later in your career. With that said, don’t do anything that would cause anyone to doubt you or your abilities.
To that end, here’s the most valuable advice I can offer:
1. Dress the part. You don’t have to wear a suit and tie. However, you should know that jeans and t-shirts are usually not acceptable attire for newsrooms. I know you are students and times are hard. Your finances may limit what you can spend on clothing. Stock your closets with interchangeable clothing items that you can easily mix and match for those days you have to “work.” Reporters and photographers are less likely to take you out on stories if you aren’t properly dressed. It’s all about making memorable first impressions. Other things you might want to reconsider: party attire, wild hair colors or hair styles, noticeable body piercings that are not on the ear, etc. (Seriously, I’m trying to help you get a job!)
2. Ditch the crowd. I encourage you to know your fellow interns. You all share a common interest, so grow that friendship. HOWEVER, I challenge you to make a lasting connection with the professionals in the newsroom. Those professionals have an established network of friends in the business. They can connect you with job leads. They are more likely to offer help in building your resume/reel.
3. Shadow everyone. I am a witness to this. I entered my senior year in 1998 with the mission to get a job as a television reporter. During my final semester, my professor asked if I was interested in weekend internship at WLBT in Jackson, MS. For the first few weeks, I shadowed reporters. Then I switched to shadowing a weekend morning producer. It was the best move of my entire life. It opened the door to an option that I had not even considered. It made me a better writer and producer of my daily newscasts at the University of Mississippi. AND when that producer decided to leave the business in May, the news director offered me a part time job producing the weekend morning newscasts. That led to a full-time job a few months later.
4. Take advantage of every opportunity offered/Create your own opportunities to learn. Your internship is about more than just running scripts and answering phones. Get out of the newsroom and follow the reporters. Find out which photographer is on vo or vo-sot patrol for the day. Ask if you can tag along. Before you go out, log on to your newsroom computer system and read the background information on the stories. The photographer may hand you the microphone and ask you to conduct the interview. It’s also an easy way to get practice interviewing and shooting stand-ups.
5. Write, write and re-write. Take your own notes when you are out with the reporters. Write your own version of their story. Ask that reporter to review your work. The same applies to interns who want to be producers/writers. Write a few voiceovers or vo-sots and ask the producer to review your samples.
It’s all about putting your education to work for you.