This is the first installment in an occasional series that will document my days at a summer internship. I figured that since this site is run by two journalism students, it could possibly be appropriate to give a little insight into what a news internship is like. I could be wrong. Hopefully I’m not.
As was mentioned in both Week in Review segments, I began my summer internship at WTSP in St. Petersburg on Monday. WTSP is the local CBS affiliate station and is located at the St. Pete end of the Gandy Bridge which connects Tampa and St. Pete.
If you’re looking for some kind of angry rant here, then you’ll be sorely disappointed. After one week, this internship has already been a wonderful and educating experience. Will the new and exciting nature of it all eventually wear off? Probably, but I can honestly say that I look forward to spending the rest of my summer at Channel 10.
So the initial question is always how did you get this internship? Are Channel 10’s internship positions competitive?
I honestly have no idea.
Last fall, I found myself as a lost journalism student in my first semester at the University of Florida. Yes, I was a community college transfer. A kid that slept his way through high school and then decided that this school thing is kind of important. All that I had ever really wanted was to go to school at UF, and that was now a reality, so everything was cool, right?
My first semester at UF also happened to be my first semester as a journalism student. I watched “Jerry Maguire” one too many times as a kid and started college as a sport management major. So stepping in the door at UF, one of the country’s top journalism schools, was beyond intimidating.
Here were kids that had known what they wanted to do since they were small children. They had been editors of school papers, interns at major media outlets and had memorized the AP Style book like I had memorized the 1993 World Series. Their memorization was much more useful.
“If you’re a sophomore and you haven’t had an internship yet, you really need to get on that,” said one professor. Uh, what if I’m a junior?
So I spent a couple of months frantically trying to find some kind of internship opportunity. I found that being a junior with no previous experience in the field is kind of like being a 50-year-old woman looking to begin a career as a glamour model. Nobody wants to be the first place to give you a shot, and if they do, they probably aren’t willing to admit it.
Over Christmas break, I walked into the lobby of Media General, which in Tampa is a three-way combination of WFLA, The Tampa Tribune and TBO.com. It was kind of like a movie scene when the beyond desperate dude shows up at the girl who keeps shutting him down’s doorstep. All that was missing was a little rain.
” Who are you here to see?”
“Uh, I’d like an internship.”
“You should probably make an appointment.”
Enter Nancy Ryan, special projects producer at the NBC affiliate and all-around awesome person. She was willing to talk to me in the station’s lobby and after a 20-minute conversation, I had my internship.
That is until one night during spring break when I received an E-mail informing me that all Media General internships were canceled. NO! This cannot really be happening. After all of this, I’m going to end up heading into my senior year with no internship or actual experience to show. As Lee Corso would utter, “Not so fast my friend!”
Re-enter perpetual life-saver Ryan who called me the morning after one sleep deficient night. She said that she felt terrible about the corporate decision that had been made. She also promised that she would try to find me another spot somewhere else.
One day later, a wonderful phone call came in informing me that Ryan had gotten me an internship at Channel 10. So that was how this entire thing came about, kind of indirect but still a huge relief.
My first day at WTSP was short but still confusing. I had never worked around any kind of television before, I’d barely seen the inside of any kind of newsroom, yet here I was at a full-blown TV station. There was an entire new language to learn. Things like SOTS, VOSOTs and B-Rolls. A computer program named Avid Instinct, which is used to produce video packages, brought all of this confusion into one central source.
Unlucky for me, I was the only intern without any experience in television. Lucky for me, the other interns were more than willing to help.
Like I said, the first day was short. A couple of tutorials, a trip to the production room to watch the midday news and my first taste of a production meeting.
The awkward parts of the day came whenever somebody asked me the simple question that I am still unable to answer.
So what exactly do you want to do?
The only truthful answer to that question is that I have no idea. The other interns are focused on a particular goal. One wants to be a reporter, the other is an aspiring producer. I’m clueless.
I don’t know if I want to be on-air, off-air, print, television. I cannot decide. All I know is that I would like a job after I graduate college, and I’ll take about whatever I can get. I would obviously prefer something in sports, but I’m also assertive enough to see that there are over 100 jobs in a newsroom and three of them are credited to covering athletics.
The second day was when things picked up. Working the night-side shift (3 P.M. to 12 A.M.), I was sent out to shadow my first story, a look at tourism numbers dropping at Pinellas County beach hotels due to the oil spill hysteria. A week earlier, I had been at St. Pete Beach making fun of a wedding party because they were dressed in formal gear on the beach while I was in a bathing suit. Nine days later I was now standing on the sands of Treasure Island in slacks, a long sleeve button-up and dress shoes, holding a Blackberry and notepad.
One of the highlights of the trip was when a discussion broke out of where each of us was when 9/11 happened. I was in seventh grade homeroom, the reporter was in her apartment in Boston. “I was with George Bush,” said the cameraman. Uh, you win.
Because my particular internship has a focus on sports, I reported to the sports portion of the newsroom after getting back from the beach. Here my assignment for the rest of the night was pretty simple.
“Watch the Yankees-Red Sox game and take down notes when something important happens.”
“I can do that.”
The rest of the night was filled with Vince Carter choke jobs and frantic searches to determine who the hell Juan Miranda actually is.
After about fours hours of sleep, I worked Wednesday’s day-side shift (9 A.M. to 6:30 P.M.). I was met with two options. I could write up a package for the story that I had gone out on the night before, or I could go out on a new story and write when I returned. Because I was in spectator mode the night before, I took the second option.
This time, I went with a “mass media journalist,” meaning that due to budget cuts, he was a one man band. Shoot, report, edit. The story was a woman who had wrongfully been ticketed for running a red light by an intersection camera because her license plate was one character different than the one in the picture.
The reporter was new to town, so I spent a good portion of the day playing Tampa GPS. The day was hectic with plenty of driving and time running short after the story was pushed up to the 5 P.M. show instead of the 6 P.M.
This meant that lunch consisted of a Snickers, pretzels and a Red Bull.
I worked on my practice script when I got back and finished it the following day. Speaking of the following day, while it began with me finishing a practice script, it quickly got more interesting.
After finishing the script, I was told to go talk to the producer of the 11 P.M. show. “See if he has anything for you to write,” I was told. I confidently shook my head yes and walked over, but inside I was thinking “What!?!?! Like write something that goes on air in three hours? Like the real air that people watch things on?”
I was given two voice overs and an anchor intro to write. Producers write dozens of these in a day, but I was two days removed from being completely computer illiterate, so this was a big deal to me.
With plenty of help from another understanding producer, I wrote roughly 55 seconds of script and edited video to go along with it. Ten seconds were removed later when an arrest made a mug shot and “please contact police” graphic irrelevant.
Stuff that I wrote would now be on air at 11 and I still wasn’t quite sure why they had let me do it.
Regardless, watching the news that night was a great feeling. Were my two segments more than a blink of the eye to anyone else? Absolutely not, but I had briefly contributed to a newscast and it was very self-rewarding.
This gig still has an entire summer of growth in store for me. I have endless amounts to learn and a deficient amount of experience to make up for. I’ll try and walk anybody interested through my experience as I try to find my own way.
It should be an interesting summer.