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Summer Internships – A Success Story

  • By Newmark J-School Staff

They left for the summer as students. They came back as professionals.

The 50 students of the Class of ’07 made their mark during paid summer internships at a variety of media outlets, including ABC News, Bloomberg Television, BusinessWeek.com, The Christian Science Monitor, the Detroit Free Press, the New York Daily News, ESPN The Magazine, NY1 News, the New York Times web video group, Reuters Television, WNYC Radio and Washingtonpost.Newsweek Interactive.

The students earned great reviews from their bosses. Every supervisor (of the 95 percent who answered the question) said she or he would hire a CUNY J-School intern again. And most said they’d hire their intern permanently, if they could.

Typical was the response of this delighted news editor: “If this is what [CUNY] is churning out down there, bring ’em on!”

The J-School celebrated the intern program’s success at a Sept. 25 reception honoring Alberto Ibargüen, President and CEO of the John S. and James L. Knight Foundation, which ensured that even students with unpaid internships received a $3,000 stipend. The Knight grant supported, either fully or partially, 68 percent of the internships.

Ibargüen, who heard several students speak about their work experiences, announced the foundation would help support the program again this summer.

The students, for their part, came away with skills they will use throughout their careers—and the kind of confidence that comes from working full time against real-world deadlines. Whether interning for a major magazine or broadcast network, a community website or a small cable news operation, all the students did hands-on journalism work: research, reporting, writing, editing, producing and shooting.

Angela M. Hill interned for the prestigious Brian Ross Investigative Unit at ABC News. Describing her role in one of the unit’s top-secret investigative projects, she said, “We spent nearly two weeks in the field developing sources; making phone calls; and scheduling, conducting and shooting interviews and b-roll. There were even a few nights of surveillance. It was an incredible and exciting experience.”

At her internship for Reuters Television, Tanzina Vega pitched stories, went out on shoots, booked the wire service’s clients, brought back the tape, edited it, wrote a shot list and a script, and fed it to the clients – all while on deadline.

“I realized that I love being out on different shoots, talking to all types of people, and being able to tell a story visually,” said Vega, whose background is in print journalism. Besides her video producing work at Reuters, she also wrote a story about an important discovery in Darfur – a piece that was picked up by The Washington Post.

Andy Hawkins interned for the Bronx bureau of the New York Daily News, where he built up his portfolio as well as his leg muscles. “The internship definitely exposed me to the rush and urgency of daily news reporting,” he said. “It taught me to be succinct in my writing and concise in my reporting. I produced well over 25 clips over the summer, some as small as a story about the return of the sea lions at the Bronx Zoo, and some as detailed as the rise in the Dominican population in the borough.”

Tim Catts turned his very first story for BusinessWeek.com into gold by digging up new information on CNBC’s flawed stock-picking contest. When CNBC responded to his scoop with an acknowledgment that it was investigating the very issues he’d raised, Catts said, “I felt like I’d hit a home run.” He later wrote about the contest’s legitimate winner in a story called “The Million-Dollar Waitress.”

Leslie Caraballo’s internship with the New York Times web video department resulted in several video pieces for the Times’ website, including one about Bushwick 30 years after the blackout. “The web video unit is savvy and kind,” Caraballo said. “They’ve all been wonderful to work with and there is real opportunity for hands-on experience.”

The final benefit of the summer internship program? Employers are already asking for Summer 2008 interns from the current class.