It seems every mass communications or media studies student knows that he or she wants to be a television reporter, newspaper columnist, magazine writer, publicist, etc. It is a woefully misguided thought that we will have everything figured out by the time graduation rolls around. So, instead of applying to a variety of internships, aspiring media pros might narrow it down to one specific medium. That’s not always the best idea. Media interns should not limit themselves to one industry. Why? Well, there are a few reasons.
1. A different medium teaches you something new. An important goal of an internship is to learn. It supplements the education you receive in school with real-world experience — beyond your university newspaper. Working in a different medium than you initially saw yourself working in also means you gain insight into the different ways that news and information is shared. Maybe by interning at a radio station you’ll be able to pick out what elements of a news story work well for that outlet as opposed to something written for your school paper.
2. You’ll be boosting your chances of landing a coveted internship. The fact remains that there are only so many internships in so many different cities. If you limit yourself to one medium, you might miss a potentially rewarding opportunity elsewhere. So don’t just apply at the only major newspaper in your town. Send out a few applications to smaller papers or perhaps the communications departments at various companies. While writing press releases for your local animal shelter might not have the cachet that an internship at The New York Times would, you will still be able to learn a lot about how media works from the experience.
For a long time, I applied to internships and blindly sent my resume to newspapers that didn’t even have any jobs posted because I didn’t want to “waste my time” doing something outside of newspaper writing. Later I found that if you hope to find a media job after college, it’s better to have interned at a newsletter company or communications department than to spend the summer working at an ice cream shop.
3. It will give you the opportunity to discover which outlet suits you best. Many journalism students have dreams of being the next WoodStein, Cronkite or David Carr. They imagine the rush of a newspaper assignment desk, the deadlines and stopping the presses — but if they don’t look beyond the newspaper world, they could be missing out on something they might really love to do and might be better at.
I always thought I would end up working at a newspaper. But after interning at Guideposts magazine and doing some blogging for Mediabistro and Scifibloggers.com, I’m finding that a magazine might be a better fit. With magazine writing, the style and content is less restrictive and you usually have more time to turnaround an article.
4. It makes you a well-rounded media professional. If you’re studying journalism, the same ethics and general skills that you use at a TV station are the same ones you’d use at a newspaper, magazine, news site, etc. In any of these fields, you’re going to get a better sense of what is considered news, and learn how to find sources and conduct interviews. The internship may not be what you expected or in the medium you are most comfortable with, but you’ll be gaining valuable skills that are easily transferable and might just give you an edge in a different media field.
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