I thought I’d share a couple of final thoughts about my experience, especially to help any 2011 Jscholars that are more sensible than me and actually checked the blog out before starting.
I’m not sure how successful I was there. The editor was quite generous in his assessment, but we’ll have to wait to see how many articles actually make it into the papers before I can give a final verdict. That said, I hope it doesn’t seem arrogant of me to assume the mantle of advice-giver, but this is just an assessment of what I feel I learnt through the week, and what I’ll be taking into my next internship.
This is a blend of stuff I did which worked well, and stuff I didn’t do which I feel like I should have done. It’s extremely epic and exhaustive! If anybody has any advice they’d like to add, absolutely add your own ideas to the comments!
Find your paper’s catchment area
Find out which suburbs are included in your paper’s zone, preferably before getting in there. This was actually more difficult than I thought it would be. In the office they have maps of their area and you get a “welcome pack” with fact sheets (including suburbs) of the papers in the area. I couldn’t find something simple and handy like that on the website though, so if you’re gung-ho you might want to head in there the week before to grab that stuff then.
The Quest website, http://www.whereilive.com.au/ has a suburb finder. I had this open on my internet browser for the whole week basically, and every idea I found with a suburb I wasn’t sure about I typed in and it told me which paper covered it. Very useful.
Find out deadlines, publication dates etc.
Find out, preferably before you start, the deadline and publication dates for the paper, and think about the time frames that each edition will cover. This was sort of confusing for me, because there were three different deadlines and three different publication days for three different papers in my office. If the deadline is a Monday though you can bring in some ideas/stories that will find their way into that week’s paper immediately, and then work on stuff for the next week’s. I got one little piece published in City South News by meeting their Monday deadline on the first day I arrived. It was a good feeling to see something in print on Wednesday, while I was still at the paper. On the other hand I took in some ideas which were already out of date because I didn’t fully understand the publication dates and the time period the paper covered.
Take in ideas. Constantly find new ideas and pitch them.
About half of the stories I did were my own ideas. Some other students had editors who piled stuff onto them, but mine were sort of hands-off and there were days when I didn’t get anything from them at all.
Read their papers in the few weeks before you begin your internship. Lots of ideas there, especially in the briefs, the advertisements and the letters sections, I found.
Check events sites like www.ourbrisbane.com for upcoming events in the area.
Also check out media statements from the Qld government, find the local councillors in the catchment and check their websites. I didn’t do this as much as I should have.
You can also find ideas through Google by typing in “southside” or “Mt Gravatt” and the names of other suburbs and clicking on the “News” filter. (This idea came from the great Mr Alex Stilianos Esq)
I took in 3 pages ideas, mainly of upcoming events in the area I had sourced through www.ourbrisbane.com. This was good because it gave me some ideas to pitch, but they were all pretty artsy/musicy/eventy type things. Nothing hard unfortunately. I’m sure I could have done better. They will already have done stories on some of the ideas, so overcompensate for that. The more the better.
Pitch them to the editor in the morning when you get there. My guy said go for it on about 3 or 4 ideas so I had stories to write immediately.
Throughout the internship I kept looking for new ideas and pitching them in batches of 3 or 4.
Write a few things before you rock up.
I wrote a few stories before I came, only three little briefs though, I could have done more. The editor appreciated it and two of them found a home in the paper (the third had already been covered). It also proved I could write without being babied through the first days, and gave him more confidence in me, I think.
Don’t be shy
I’ve done work experience before where I’ve just sat in the corner and waited for people to tell me what to do. Doesn’t happen. Find things to do and do them. If you have a good question, ask it. People don’t get annoyed when you ask them intelligent questions. Put yourself out there. Offer suggestions, pitch ideas, ask advice.
Ask every morning if there’s anything you can do, and do everything they want you to
If the editor doesn’t give you anything, it doesn’t necessarily mean he’s got nothing for you to do.
I did this on about 3 days of my internship and got something (once 4 things) each time. I also got stories from the reporters as well as the editors, I guess the pissy little things they didn’t want to do themselves. But it gave me something to do anyway.
On two other days when I didn’t ask for anything I was given nothing. Those were slow days.
If there’s more than one editor in the office, form a relationship with them all and ask them for work
I had three editors in my office, for three different papers. I managed to get work from each of them, so that means my articles will hopefully appear in three different publications, which will be good for the ego and the old portfolio. Although one editor was directly responsible for me, I wasn’t just tethered to his paper, and managed to find work across the board.
They seem to love photos. Use it!
Most stories I wrote they wanted a photo for, even if it was a story I didn’t think needed a photo, for example, a story about a new Vision Australia centre opening up in the area. They wanted a photo of the centre to go with it.
My thinking is, if you’ve got a photo for something it’s more likely to be used, because they’ve wasted the resources on it and newspapers like pretty things on their pages, not just text. So I tried to book in a photo for everything I wrote, and they seemed OK with that.
The booking system for photographs was unavailable on my computer which was annoying because it meant every time I wanted to book a photo I had to badger one of the reporters or editors to call up the system and book the photo on their computer. They didn’t seem to mind, generally, but this sort of leads me to my next point…
Walking the line between being keen and being annoying
This isn’t advice, just something I was mindful of. Taking the initiative was very important for me this week, and without it I feel like I wouldn’t have written much at all. But I was very aware that work experience people can be annoying, and I didn’t want to tick people off. So I only went to the editors when I had something I felt I needed to ask, and even then took my problems up in batches rather than one at a time, and then got out of his face quickly. I generally worked on my own, didn’t ask the editor what he wanted out of the article, how to write it, what the angle should be or anything like that. He seemed to appreciate that.
Make sure you use your internship for you
This is something I didn’t do as well as I could have. I want to be a political journalist (I think!) so I guess I should have gone in there with some local council stories and so on. Think about what you want to do and be, and tailor your internship to that as much as you can (but obviously do everything the editor asks you to do, and well).
If you’re not sure what you want to do in the future, work on a variety of different story types to see which you like the best. You’ll probably be doing this anyway because, in my case anyway, the editor got me to do a really broad range of articles.
Also, think about your by-lines, and what you’re going to get published. A lot of my classmates reported that they were asked to do real estate ads, advertorials, vox pops and a lot of briefs. I guess if you’re asked to do them then you’ve gotta do them, and it’ll be good experience, but these are things which probably won’t be great for the old portfolio.
Thankfully I wasn’t asked to do these things very much. The only thing I did like that was vox pops on the day Kevin Rudd was taken down by Julia Gillard. We went out and did about two hours or so of vox pops about it. It was pretty interesting, and good for experience, but that’s all just going to disappear anonymously into the paper.
Take a pen everywhere
OK, this advice is beginning to be a little silly, but yeah, take a pen everywhere with you, even inside the office. Every time I went to the editor I was penless, and every time he gave me info or phone numbers and I had to race back to my desk and return with a pen. It was stupid. Bring your pen everywhere!
Don’t be discouraged
Some days were worse than others. Tuesday for me in particular was terrible. I had a good rant about it that night and didn’t want to go back the next day, but then it was fine. Wednesday through to Friday were productive and I got a lot of stories done.
In addition, sometimes I felt like some people in the office didn’t even realise I was there and were pointedly ignoring me etc. Generally this wasn’t the case, but there was sometimes that feeling. I asked one of the guys how often they get work experience people in and he said about every week, so I’m guessing they were just over it. That’s OK. I just put my head down and worked, and tried not to feel bad about it.
A note on photography internships
I haven’t mentioned this chick before, but there was another work experience girl who was over at the photography department, and the whole week she seemed to sit there and have very little to do. It would suck being in the photography department because you wouldn’t have your own equipment, and even if you did you can’t drive your own car because of insurance reasons. So I wouldn’t attempt to get a photography internship!
That’s basically it. I hope it’s been helpful! It was a pretty difficult week sometimes, but I’m glad I did it. If you guys have any other ideas add them below