Working with seasoned professionals in the industry will be invaluable as you build your experience. Forming connections and building relationships will help you learn from these professionals. They will care more about you when they see your dedication to learning and willingness to work in the newsroom.
Learn from others
Reporters Seek out the best, most productive reporters in the newsroom. Listen when they interview someone on the phone. Pay attention to their tones, what questions they ask, and how they manage their time. Request to go with them on an assignment. Ask questions.
Newsroom staff Get to know the photographers, the webmaster, copyeditors, page designers and other newsroom staff. These people often have long careers in journalism and possess great knowledge about the industry. They offer a different perspective from reporters and editors. Ask them questions about their job. It is important to understand what others do in a newsroom.
Editors During your internship, ask your editor or city editor how you’re progressing and what you need to work on to improve your reporting and writing. Take notes about what she or he says and heed the advice.
Before your internship comes to an end, ask for another meeting with the editor to get some feedback on your overall performance. You get a lot of feedback as a student, but in the workforce you will need to seek it to receive it. Find out exactly what you are good at and what you need to improve. Again, take notes. The praise will give you talking points down the road for job interviews. “During my internship, my editor told me my copy was clean and my multimedia skills were impressive.”
Concentrate on improving in the areas you receive criticism. If you are told you are a slow writer, work on that. Research ways to improve your speed.
Diversify and save
Write as much as possible during your internship on a variety of topics. A diverse portfolio of clips will help when you start your job search. Keep a log of your story links in one place so you can send these as clips. Many reporters simply attach their links in their resume. This is fine, but keep paper copies in case the links become inactive on the website. You may also want to scan the stories and save them as pdfs to send electronically when applying for a job.
Maintain good relations
Before you leave, ask the editor and other staff you worked with, including reporters and photographers, if you can use them as professional references. After you leave, send thank you letters to the editors and other staff you worked with. Let them know you appreciate the time and attention they gave you. It’s professional and courteous. It may also help them remember you fondly when they get that call from an editor checking your references.
Megan Ward (firstname.lastname@example.org) is editor of the High Point Enterprise in High Point, North Carolina. This piece was originally published in the Institute for Humane Studies Journalism Career Guide.