The trick to landing journalism internships

When to apply for journalism internships

journalism internships

This could be you one day! CC BY 2.0/Wikimedia

You should know that summer internships are typically filled months before summer ever gets here. The time to apply for summer internships is October and November. Some newspapers have humane deadlines as late as February or March. But the biggest papers close application windows by December 1 or earlier. Fall, winter, and spring internships are rare, so ask before you assume they exist. Generally, deadlines for non-summer internships are not as far in advance because the candidate pool is much smaller. While it can be difficult to find non-summer internships, the lack of competition for the ones you do find can be to your advantage. One strategy is to adjust your school year to take classes in the summer or to or delay graduation to have a shot at one of these off-summer internships. Just be sure you know where to apply.

Thinking geographically about your journalism internship

Another reason good people miss out on internships is that they lack geographic imagination. Let me illustrate. Two students at the University of Missouri-Columbia,
a top journalism program, applied for internships. The first was an international student in the graduate program. She had a degree from a university in London and a thick pack of well-written magazine articles. She was impressive. She had focused her search on the popular area around San Francisco. Another student, a junior undergrad, had a few clips from the campus paper. They were OK. Knowing she had a lot of competition, she applied to a lot of papers in out-of-the-way places. One was the Grand Forks Herald in North Dakota.

I think you know how the story turned out. Because she applied to off-the-path newspapers, the junior overtook the international master’s student in experience.

Don’t let location be a barrier; use it as a tool for breaking in. There are enough barriers already. If you worry first about where you’ll stay, you’ll stymie your chances for landing an internship in the first place. Student journalists who insist on looking only in cities where they have relatives or friends with spare couches won’t be asking sources questions. They’ll be asking customers, “Do you want fries with that?”

Take advantage of a national internship program if you want a great journalism internship

Most internships are offered by individual newspapers. Some papers belong to groups or chains, like Gannett and McClatchy, that have recruiters who help more than one paper. But you will almost always be dealing with newspapers one at a time. Two large, national internship programs are exceptions:

The Chips Quinn Scholars program, which started with six scholars in 1991, now finds internships for about seventy-five journalists of color every year. Its alumni claim more than two-hundred forty colleges.

The Dow Jones Newspaper Fund is the nation’s largest internship program. It is a foundation that encourages careers in journalism. It runs several programs for high school students, college students and teachers. Programs of particular interest to college journalists offer internships in two high-demand areas: copy editing and business reporting.

The rest of the newsroom:

This advice comes directly from my book Breaking In. It contains everything I know about landing and acing your journalism internship. I’ve been a journalist for a long time, and spent nearly 20 years recruiting and editing at the Detroit Free Press. For more tips and strategies for landing journalism internships and jobs, check out these resources:

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