Saturday, October 9, 2010

How to get a journalism internship without clips?

Q: I just transferred to my journalism major second semester of my sophomore year. It's now first semester junior year, and I would like to start applying for summer internships, especially ones for investigative journalism, ASAP. The problem is I haven't been on the newspaper staff long enough to have many published articles, and the articles that I have written so far are pretty dull (you know how it is, the newbies get last choice of beats). I need to build up my portfolio quickly. What can I do to get more quality work samples in a short amount of time, especially if I can't rely on the newspaper articles I've written? -- Cassie

A: If you don't like the stories you're being assigned and want to cover something more interesting, come up with a good investigative story idea -- there's nothing stopping you from pursuing that as a freelance journalist. You could also start a blog to show off your abilities or get a letter of recommendation from someone, such as a journalism professor, who can attest to your talent and potential. Recommendations from the right people can go a long way in this profession.

That said, it's important not to focus so much on the future that you miss out on what you need to do in the present. If you just switched your major to journalism, you must be relatively new to the field. Investigative journalism is a pretty advanced specialization within the profession. No one really starts out as an investigative journalist. First, they learn the ropes and earn their stripes covering news, crime or something else, and then they get assigned to the investigative beat. So, for now, focus on learning the nuts and bolts of journalism and developing a diverse portfolio of clips. Joining the school newspaper is a good starting point.

Spend this semester learning the fundamentals and getting bylines, and look for summer internships next semester. There will still be opportunities available in January. You'll probably have to get at least one unpaid internship under your belt before landing a paid internship.  â€“Mark Grabowski