I believe that everything happens for a reason, so when an ad for a summer internship at the Queens Courier appeared on journalismjobs.com, I went for it. It was late into the summer, so I couldn’t really count on a dream magazine internship, but something is better than nothing.
I sent in my resume and got a call a few hours later. I went in for an “interview,” which, to my dismay, consisted of two or three basic questions about which college I’m attending and what classes I’m taking. I was going to give it up right then and there because the commute was pretty unbearable. The commute consisted of two subways and two buses, which totaled about two hours of traveling. Ultimately, though, I reasoned that business takes precedence over personal comfort and I couldn’t miss this opportunity on account of my having to wake up a tad earlier.
I went in only twice a week, eight hours each day, throughout July and August. When I arrived on the first day, I was introduced to only two people and immediately given an assignment without any real guidance. There was no explanation of what was required of me, no job description, no introduction to the rest of the staff. Every day after that was the same.
Overall, I was disappointed in this internship, and my fellow interns felt the same. Granted, there were times when I was given interesting topics to report on and I really enjoyed them. They all related to the community of Queens, and involved calling local residents and doing some research. Other times, I would arrive simply to be told that I wasn’t needed and could go home.Two hours of wasted commuting just to hear that.
Another day, I spent almost four hours typing up addresses of health centers around Queens for a special insert, which I didn’t even get credit for.
After a while, though, I got used to the place, and some of the staff members became more sympathetic. The Editor in Chief, though harsh and demanding, would find ways to show his appreciation of the interns. The Assistant Editor, however, was someone we’d always avoid. She would yell about an article that hadn’t been written properly, without explaining what about it was wrong. She would slam the desk with anger and put me down after the slightest error, despite the fact that every obscure order barked at me was left for me to figure out on my own. Then she’d complain we were distracting her if we approached her for help.
I recall being told during my interview that they would help me with my writing and guide me through every article so I can walk away from this experience a better writer-that didn’t happen. Not once did someone sit down with me to critique my writing. The article was either great, or it was ignored. I would wait for the release of the issue in anticipation, only to find that only one of my three submitted stories had made it in. When asked why, the response was always, “we ran out of space”. In spite of everything, this internship did have its advantages. I gained several clips, which I am proud of, as well as experience working in a newsroom. I realized that I really do want to be a journalist. I enjoy sitting down at a computer and allowing my creativity to flow from my mind to my fingertips to create an article that someone will enjoy reading. So I do feel that this experience was worth my while.
Everyone must start somewhere– that somewhere usually being at the bottom. So my advice to you is to get an internship despite the sacrifices you have to make for it. If for no other reason, it allows you, by definition, to be exposed to the real world and still make mistakes!