D.C. Journalism Internships in the “New Media” Era

In years past, the intern experience for an aspiring journalist was limited to the medium in which they were placed. Newspapers employed interns to work on the print product; radio and television stations had interns to help produce the news broadcast or longer format programs. There was very little “crossover” in terms of the type of work interns were asked to perform. Times have definitely changed.

In 2011 a reporter at a radio station might write print copy for the station’s website, a reporter at a newspaper might be responsible for producing video, while a “multi-media” reporter for an online news site might write copy, shoot video, and edit audio all for the same story.

Where can I get a “new media” internship?

Participants of the political journalism track of the Capital Semester or the summer Institute on Political Journalism (IPJ),  have benefited from the “new media” landscape and have seized the opportunities offered them. Here’s a few highlights of last summer’s interns’ “new media” experiences.

– Federal News Radio –Last summer, Courtney Thompson from the University of Alabama interned with Federal News Radio – a 24 hours new radio station that only covers the federal government. Having written extensively for her school newspaper, Courtney was able to start reporting the very first day of her internship and at the end of the summer she had over 30 articles with her own byline.  Thompson said, “My supervisor really pushed me to become more accountable for my writing and be a more aggressive reporter.”  Here’s an article Courtney wrote about legislation pending in the Senate that would help keep track of federal spending.

WashingtonExaminer.com – When summer intern Gracie Ferrell began her internship with the online version of Washington’s newest daily newspaper, she didn’t realize how much responsibility she’d be given. Almost immediately she was assigned to write for the paper’s Blog “Beltway Confidential: Politics from the Nation’s Capital.” She wrote stories about Sarah Palin’s email, the mass resignation of Newt Gingrich’s campaign staff and the downfall of disgraced Congressman Anthony Weiner from New York.

– Air Force Times – A part of the Gannett News chain, Air Force Times gave intern Amber James the chance to write for the print and online publication. “I was responsible for writing one to two stories every week for the print edition of Air Force Times. I also attended regular staff meetings and even a hearing at the Capitol”, said James. The online version of Air Force Times published two of James’ stories. One featured a retired Army couple that went on a bike ride in all 50 states to raise awareness about the service and sacrifice of our military personnel. Another article told the story of a travelling art show “Wounded in Action” that honors American heroes wounded in battle.

– DPA-Deutsche Presse-Agentur German New Service – Kaitlin Durbin of Ohio Northern University got a two for one deal through her internship at the DPA—experience in Washington, D.C. and experience working for a foreign news bureau. While her German skills helped her, Kaitlin wrote for the English language version of the DPA. “I had the chance to cover briefings on Capitol Hill, interview members of Congress and cover a luncheon with President Obama,” said Durbin. “I gained a better understanding of how our government works. The experience was truly incomparable,” she added. Her articles were picked up in publications across the globe and ranged from a story about the latest fight against Facebook over Internet privacy to a look at how one of the worst droughts on record impacted farmers in the South.

It’s still about the Fundamentals

While “new media” is indeed a thrilling place to start your career, it should come as no surprise that the basics of journalism remain the same and are more important than ever. ABC News correspondent Karen Travers (IPJ 1999) told students at the recent IPJ collegiate journalism conference that there is no substitute for good writing. “Good writers will always stand out in the newsroom,” Travers said. I reiterated to participants the importance of sticking to the basics of journalism, “Regardless of your own politics or ideology, tell the story straight, cover everything with fairness and make accuracy and excellence your goal.”

To learn more about internship opportunities available through the Institute on Political Journalism, please visit www.DCinternships.org/IPJ.

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