Advice from an intern

2014-01-30 17.13.12

A lot has happened since I left my internship at CBC Edmonton. And after six weeks out west, I enjoyed myself very much.

A lot of people have been asking me about the benefits of leaving Toronto to do their placement. My recommendation? Go for it.

Before heading out to Alberta, I had tried to pursue an internship at my dream workplace. Unfortunately, things didn’t  go as planned and I was devastated that I didn’t get it. A lot of tears were shed. My confidence was also at an all time low.

It took a summer and a month to finally accept that there was nothing wrong with me or that I was a bad reporter. Maybe I just wasn’t the right fit for this place. Maybe I was off to do better things.

I’d like to think those two things are true to this day.

A lot of people I know are scratching their heads and overworrying about where they’ll be interning in their fourth year. And while I admit that I was probably the same in my third year, I would like to make things about easier for people trying to find an internship. And for that reason, I have compiled a list of observations and advice for those who are a tad nervous about where they’ll be headed.

1. If you don’t get your #1 choice, don’t freak out: That happened to me and I freaked out a little too much. So much, that my internship coordinator told me to relax. What I suggest is to have a list of places you want to go and start contacting the stations to find out who’s in charge of internships.

2. Be patient: Now that you’re contacting news directors, please don’t be alarmed if no one gets back to you and don’t take it personally. I know I did, and it was extra stress I didn’t even need. News directors are really busy trying to make the news happen. What you should do is try calling or emailing.

3. Take a trip: My sister lives in Edmonton, so it was my excuse to go on a vacation to Alberta. But I also went as a means to be productive. The purpose of my trip to Alberta was to try find a way into the newsroom…which brings me to my next point. But if you can’t go on a vacation, perhaps you can try a a Skype call.

4. Try getting in contact with a graduate who went to your school or make a cold call to a reporter: So if a news director isn’t getting back to you, start watching the news and research the reporters. That sounds creepy, but we are all journalists…after all! I started searching “Ryerson” after a couple of reporters’ names to see what would come up. Luckily for me, I did find a recent Ryerson grad. I emailed her randomly and said I was coming to Edmonton. We decided to meet up for coffee and I asked her everything I wanted to know.

She also gave me a tour of the newsroom and introduced me to the news director.  AND VOILA, I started the discussion of an internship and that’s how I got it. Sometimes, that’s all it takes.

5. Watch the news from that region: Now that you’ve scored the internship, watch and read the news from the region you will be working at. HELL, I would advise you to do it before you even meet up with a reporter/news director. It would be pretty embarrassing to know nothing about the place you want to intern at. Know who the mayor is. Know who the premier is. What are the local issues the city is facing? Also, try finding some offbeat/unusual stories you can pitch once you start your internship.

6. PITCH. PITCH. PITCH: No one knows a story better than you if you’re the one pitching it to the producers. So look everywhere and you’ll get more opportunities. I was lucky my producer had a lot of trust in me. I didn’t produce my first interview until the end of my first week. And that was because I was encouraged to pitch from the very first day.

7. Ask A LOT of questions: You’re there to learn so don’t be passive. Ask as many questions as you can. How do I do this again? What can I do better? Can I shoot my own stand-up?

The question I asked the most was “Is there anything you want me to do?” and I think that was the most important question to ask. Don’t feel like you are being annoying. It only means that you want to be challenged even more.

8. Don’t expect to go on air all the time: I was lucky enough to go on air four times during my internship. But it didn’t come without a lot of menial tasks.

But hey, that’s what an intern does! It takes time to be able to get your own stories…and you have to earn it. I spent three weeks writing scripts and voiceovers before I was allowed to do my own stories. And I think this goes back to asking producers if there was anything for me to do. So lower your expectations and take what you can get. Writing copy has also helped me improve my writing IMMENSELY.

9. You have to build trust: Trust is key to the internship and it has to go both ways. Your internship is what you make of it, so you have to work hard in order for producers to have faith in your abilities. Don’t complain. Don’t ever say no. Do what they tell you and suggest new ways to approach a story. And MAYBE, they’ll give you a chance.

10. A big city might not even be the greatest place to go: Everyone at my internship tells me that going to a small town is the right place to start. It’ll give your more opportunities to report. In addition, there are stories in small towns that need to be told.

Starting off in a bigger newsroom might make you feel like a cog in the machine whereas smaller cities have fewer resources.

Yes, it’s good to be ambitious. But leaving Toronto doesn’t mean you’re lowering your standards. In fact, it might be a lot easier to learn from your mistakes at a smaller place.


In conclusion…

Leaving Toronto was probably the best decision I have ever made in my life. In some ways, it was probably just as valuable as going on  an exchange.

My confidence went up and I feel like a much better reporter with the wonderful experiences I was given. I also got to explore another city.

Who would have thought that I would go to a cheesemaking seminar for work? And who would have imagined that my first major story for television would be about my favourite topic: film?

The internship has by far been my favourite thing to do for school and I wasn’t even in the classroom for any of it. So relax, start making contacts and choose the best place for you. Toronto is a great place to intern. But I wouldn’t rule out other places as well.


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