The ultimate guide to journalism internships
Whether you want to work at a major news outlet like The New York Times, tackle public affairs in Washington D.C., or start your own podcast, journalism internships can open doors. Real-world experience and exposure to industry professionals create the perfect recipe for a career in journalism.
This article will help you understand more about journalism internships, where to look for them, and how to earn a place in an internship program.
Let’s start by learning more about what a journalism internship is and why it’s important.
What’s a journalism internship?
A journalism internship is an opportunity for students pursuing journalism majors to gain hands-on experience, typically with a communications company or news organization. It can set you up for an entry-level journalism position, either at the company where you intern or elsewhere after completing the internship.
This experience puts you alongside seasoned professionals so you can develop new skills and meet potential mentors. All of this is invaluable for your professional development.
Your duties will depend on the focus of your internship and the career you want. For example, a social media intern might focus on social media channels like Instagram, Facebook, or email marketing platforms. A digital media or marketing communications intern might work on a marketing team developing brand messaging.
And, of course, everybody wants to know …
“Will I be paid for an internship?”
It depends. Businesses offer both paid and unpaid internships, and each has its place.
Paid internships compensate you for your work. They won’t make you rich, but you will have some cash flow.
Unpaid internships do not compensate you financially — but they can still be worth your time! For instance, some offer academic credit, a once-in-a-lifetime chance to work with top-level professionals, or housing stipends.
How to find a journalism internship
Let’s look at where and how you can find an internship that suits you.
School career center
If your university has a career center, start there. Many career centers can connect you with past alumni in various positions and companies. Many companies partner with local schools to post their available internship openings, so it’s a great place to start.
Online job boards
An online job board is a website where employers post job opportunities — and yes, even journalism-specific internship opportunities. But job boards can also cater to certain demographics, such as women, people of color (POC), and LGBTQ+ applicants. People looking for a job board that focuses on diversity can check out one of those.
A job fair is an event where employers and recruiters share information about open positions at their company. Some colleges even hold on-site job fairs for students looking for internships.
To prepare for a job fair, print out multiple copies of your resume and practice a brief elevator pitch about who you are, what you do, and what sets you apart from other job seekers.
Conferences are networking hot spots. I mean, hundreds of journalists and industry leaders all in one place? Yes, please!
Here are a few of the top in-person journalism conferences:
- Annual Online News Association (ONA) Conference
- Society of Professional Journalists Convention
- International Symposium on Online Journalism
How can you prepare and make the most of these events?
Bring copies of your resume — a quick, unobtrusive way to get your information into the right hands. Prepare some light conversation topics and even a little pitch about yourself. And don’t forget to follow up after the conference, while you’re still fresh in their mind.
Research internships and jobs
Research can help you uncover great internship positions across the internet. Google is your bestie here — a quick search with specific details can put you first in line for some great opportunities.
Also, take time to research future career opportunities. What specific role do you want within journalism? Are you all about print media, or is digital media more your thing? Are you interested in public relations, or does your soul yearn to report on breaking news at a major news organization?
Knowing exactly where your journalistic aspirations lie can help you find an internship that supports them.
How to get (and nail) a journalism internship interview
Once you find the perfect opportunity, it’s time to apply and get ready for that interview. Here’s how.
Build a portfolio
A portfolio is your professional flex, a collection of your best work showcasing your strengths as a journalist. Whether you want to work in a newsroom, as a media relations specialist, or in marketing and communications, ensure your portfolio reflects that.
How do you build a portfolio if you don’t have experience?
You could include work you’ve done during your school career (such as with your campus newspaper) or assigned content that shows off your writing skills. Just because you weren’t paid to do it doesn’t mean it’s not worth showcasing.
In addition to writing and multimedia samples, your portfolio should include a profile about yourself, your background and education, and your interests. The more recruiters see what makes you you, the better.
Prepare a resume
Start with a strong objective. An objective statement summarizes your education, experience, and desire to work in two to three sentences. Use a formal tone and tailor the language to each position you apply for.
Highlight your education. Even if you haven’t finished your degree, include the degree you’re working toward, your GPA (if it’s 3.0 or higher), and any awards or accolades.
Talk about your professional experience. Include any part-time or full-time job experience that may be relevant to the role you are applying for and any other volunteer or internship experience.
Try our free resume template for a little extra guidance.
Customize your cover letters
Your cover letter is where you can shine and show off your accomplishments and accolades. But how do you do it?
Here are some of the basics when it comes to writing a great internship cover letter:
Don’t just repeat everything in your resume. Remember, your cover letter should enhance your resume, not replace it. Instead, expand on certain resume details. Share specific work experiences that you’re proud of. This could be that article that got 10,000 retweets on Twitter or another professional accomplishment.
Customize it. Do not use a generic cover letter in all of your applications. Tailor your letter to each internship. Start by sharing why you’re excited to apply for the specific internship, including what you admire about the organization itself.
Use keywords. Most companies run cover letters and resumes through an applicant tracking system (ATS) to scan for chosen keywords. If it passes, it goes to a recruiter. How do you know which keywords they want? Read over the job description carefully and try to mirror its language.
Get ready for the interview
The interview is probably the most intimidating part of finding an internship.
But we have the interview tips you need to seriously impress, whether it’s an in-person or virtual interview.
Prepare. Review common interview questions and practice your responses. Doing this in front of a mirror can also help you improve.
Know your stuff. Review the job description before your interview and prepare to discuss your specific skills. Research the company and prepare to talk about the values and initiatives you appreciate.
Be professional. First of all, dress professionally. Research the company’s dress code and pick out an outfit accordingly. Next, be respectful. Greet the person with a smile, handshake (if you’re meeting in person), and eye contact.
Which companies are hiring journalism interns on Handshake?
Journalism is a rich and diverse field of study with many potential career paths. But no matter which journalism career you choose, an internship — whether a summer internship or one that’s more long-term — can help make it a reality.
And Handshake is here to help! Our unique search engine is specially designed for college students and recent grads. We connect you with potential employers, no matter where you are in your degree or how much experience you have. Join Handshake today to get started.