How to Get a Journalism/Media Internship
Approximately 35 FGCU journalism students attended the NPC/FGCU panel about applying for and getting an internship on November 16 in the Cohen Center at FGCU.
NPC Board Member and Journalism Scholarship Chair, Connie Kindsvater, coordinated the event with help from the FGCU journalism professors Judd Cribbs and Lyn Millner.
The event was moderated by NPC Board Member David Silverberg. Panelists included Teri Evans, Editor-in-Chief, Naples Illustrated; Jim Goin, Senior Producer, WGCU-TV, ESPN-3 Radio/Digital Media; FGCU Alum R. J. Roan, Managing Editor, Naples Daily Herald; Kristyn Wellesly, Internship Coordinator, Naples Daily News; and Karla Wheeler, NPC Board Member and Owner, Quality of Life Publishing Co. Wheeler also shared thoughts from one of her former interns who was unable to attend, Cayla Childs, Senior Editor, Gulfshore Life.
Following a 30-minute meet-and-greet period, Silverberg introduced the panelists. Each panelist offered important points about how to get an internship and what to do during an internship interview.
Goin: “The process starts with your desire to find your career path. More of the ESPN-3 internships are for juniors and seniors, but freshmen and sophomores can also get involved. Talk with your advisor, fill out an application and meet with Sherry, our internship coordinator. By doing an internship you can get your feet wet and help determine your career path. Not only is an internship a great hands-on experience, but you will meet other people in the field who can help you along your way. My hands-on experience as an intern taught me more in a week than I learned in a whole semester in my class, TV, Radio & Digital Media. I learned the basics and the overview in class, but as an intern I learned how to do it and make it happen.” Goin added that four or five full-time employees currently at the WGCU-TV station started out there as interns.
Evans: “Internships also help you decide what you don’t want to do. Choose what internships you apply for and accept. Why do you want to be in this field? Do magazines, public relations or television appeal to you? Do the research and find out who the top people are in those fields. Pick five, or even three. It can be overwhelming to decide where you want to intern. What do you want to get out of it? What do you want to accomplish? What is your goal? If you want to cover the city beat, for example, you probably won’t come to our magazine. Narrow your field. Determine your target.
Get your resume together early! What have you done? Choose two or three writing samples that you are proud of. And, when you send a resume, please send a COVER LETTER! Do your homework. Show me that you have looked at our magazine. Tell me what interests you, why you are excited about doing this. During your interview, ask a few questions. It’s a learning experience; we’re here to help you. And, even more importantly, send me a thank you note. I have never hired anyone for an internship who didn’t send me a thank you note.”
Wellesly: “When you do get your internship, jump right in. Don’t be afraid to share your ideas; go in, with guns blazing.” She added that she hired two new interns who started shortly before Irma hit Collier County, and they learned a lot in a short time.
Roan: “I started as in intern for the News-Press when Prof. Lyn Millner sent out an email about it. After graduating, I was hired by the Naples Herald as an all-digital reader. But, things changed quickly. We’re small, but we figure out what works. If you intern with us and you have an idea, go for it! Push for it! The worse thing that’s going to happen is someone says, ‘No.’ The most valuable thing in this field is having the attitude that what you are doing matters and having the mindset that we get to get the information out there. Internships enable you to say, ‘This is what I did, this is what I accomplished.’”
Wheeler: “Why am I so passionate about internships? Because, in my own life experience, internships can open doors. I applied for two internships, with a daily and a weekly publication. My advisor pointed out that I would be a small fish in a big pond at the daily, and a medium-sized fish in a little pond at the weekly. I chose the weekly and I got to do it all during my internship. I had the opportunity there to work closely with my editor, and he recommended me for his job when he left because I was so good at grammar, punctuation and spelling.
The first intern I hired for my own company, Cayla Childs, is now senior editor of Gulfshore Life. She couldn’t attend tonight’s panel, but she had points she wanted to share with you.”
Childs’ points: Do your research before applying for an internship; become familiar with the publication. Come prepared for the interview. After the interview send a thank-you note. That is often the ‘make it or break’ gesture in getting the internship. If you get the internship, take the initiative. Create your own opportunities. After you finish your internship, keep in touch. And finally, complete as many internships as you can. They are important, and they lead to jobs.
Silverberg: “You should be applying NOW for internships for the coming summer months, or at least target where you want to intern. Get your clips together NOW. If you need clips, you can post digitally to create clips on an established website. You should treat your internship application like a job application. It’s a learning experience. For the interview, dress for the job.”
Q: Are you getting a lot of internship applications now?
Wellesly: “At the Naples Daily News we accept applications from December 15 to March 1 for the summer months.”
Evans: “For Naples Illustrated, we’re less formal. I handle all internship applications. I suggest that you reach out to Prof. Judd Cribbs about applying for internships and ask his advice.”
Roan: “Naples Herald will start accepting applications in December, and all go through me, so reach out to me.”
Goin: “At WGCU-TV we accept two or three interns/semester in digital, same with social media and ESPN-3. Go through Prof. Cribbs. We also have opportunities for service hours and volunteering. We also mentor our students, give recommendations, etc. For those who are on the floor videotaping the FGCU basketball games, they have a great time doing it while getting valuable hands-on experience.”
Q: What internships shaped your career?
Goin: “The local PBS station internship cemented my desire to work in the field. I started out as an intern, then a part-time employee, then a full-time employee, and then management. The rest is history.”
Roan: “The sports editor at the News-Press offered me a position as a freelance writer/reporter, so I took that rather than do an actual internship.”
Wellesly: “I thought I wanted to be a crime reporter but the internship helped me realize that wasn’t something that I wanted to do. Instead, I found that I liked breaking news.”
Evans: “My mom always told me to think big. I was pretty determined to intern with a station in Chicago. I had to fly in from Florida to apply for an internship in Chicago. I put my best suit on, went to the interview, and got it! I learned to bring in three or four story ideas every single day. We do that at Naples Illustrated, too. Tip: good story ideas keep you employed. Pitch your story ideas!”
Wheeler: “I loved to write; that’s why I went into journalism. During my internship, I learned that I like to do copy editing, too. I love being an editor!”
Q: What kind of questions should you ask in an interview?
Evans: “Always have three to five questions.”
Wellesly: “Ask if you’ll have opportunities to do different things. Ask what is the Dress Code? All the interns I hired last year had story ideas and asked questions. Questions show that you want to know more, you are interested, that you’ve done some homework.”
Q: Nowadays journalists have to learn to do a lot. How do I learn what I really want to do?
Goin: “Do something you love! Internships help you find out what you will really love. A lot of people don’t find out what they want to do until they are 20 or 30 years old.”
Wellesly: “I try to give my interns different things: social media, copy editor, sports. Our internships are for ten weeks, 135 hours to satisfy the FGCU requirement for class credit.”
Roan: “When you intern you got to learn something new every day. Just enjoy the ride.”