March 24, 2003

Is the internship only for recent college graduates?

Anyone can apply, but the experience is best-suited to someone right out of school.

How do I apply?

Fill out this application and submit all required materials by the deadline. Make sure you check the box that says you’re interested in the paid, year-long internship at Poynter.

Will you accept overseas applicants?

Poynter focuses most of its efforts on helping journalists in the United States, but we don’t rule out applicants from abroad for this job. Unfortunately, we cannot pay for travel.

Do I have to be a Web genius to apply?

No, but you should be computer literate and willing to learn.

So what would I do as the reporting/producing intern?

A little bit of everything. The Poynter webstaff is compact — five people — so we all have to pitch in to keep everything flowing. That means anything from responding to users’ questions to checking links; you only get coffee or address envelopes for yourself, though. All told, the potpourri of daily tasks takes about a third of your time.

The other two-thirds are reporting and producing. Reporting includes brainstorming, sending e-mail, talking on the phone, writing, and sometimes coming up with cool interactive stuff — all work that will eventually carry your byline. Producing includes editing copy, and in some cases designing pages, crafting art, making little interactive doo-dads, and more — usually for material originated by Poynter faculty members or guest contributors.

Beyond that, there are avenues that have yet to be explored. An intern with some experience and/or interest in television, for example, could do a lot to beef up the site’s coverage of that medium.

So here’s the bottom line: you’re a jack-of-all-trades. Flexibility will be required of any intern; however, the flexibility also exists to bring your own priorities and passions to the job.

Are there people around Poynter who can act as mentors and give you feedback?

Absolutely. Poynter is crawling with mentors; it’s what Poynter does. You can learn from many of them.

The Poynter community is great about sending kudos for a job well done, but identifying potential improvements takes initiative — just as it does in many newsrooms. If you’re willing to begin some conversations, the potential for constructive feedback is absolutely huge.

What are the hours? Will I work on weekends?

The official Poynter work-week is 37.5 hours long. Plan to get to work by 9 a.m. and usually leave around 6 p.m. There is sometimes weekend work, especially for big breaking news, when Poynter Online kicks into high gear to help journalists cover the story. Flexibility is required. Seminars sometimes hold events in the evening, and you never know when you’ll have to stay late to finish a project.

Will I work on a variety of different projects?

The best way to appraise this is probably to look at all the stories on Poynter Online by prior interns (Tran Ha, Ellen Sung, Robin SloanMatt ThompsonElizabeth Carr, and current intern Meg Martin). 

Will I enjoy the seminars?

They are, in a word, super-cool. Some of our best writing, and best experiences, have come out of Poynter seminars. Check out the listings and see how they strike you.

How’s the work environment at Poynter?

Poynter has a wonderful physical facility — lots of sunlight, fine art on the walls, a gigantic atrium supported by vaulting beams of dark Brazilian wood, a courtyard full of palm trees, and a 35-cent Coke machine. (You can see some old pictures here. A whole new wing has been added since 1985, but you can still get the gist of it.)

The webstaff makes its home in what is probably the darkest corner of this building, but it’s still nice. The layout is open — no cubicles here, just corners.

I would characterize the social dynamic as “funky professional.” Poynter can seem very quiet sometimes — it’s a large building, and everyone has a space that they can, and often do, retreat into. However, when it gets buzzing — in the dining hall over lunch, for example, or during a seminar — it’s a riot. Poynter has cultivated a culture of fun, and the staff is full of great personalities. (Those personalities are, of course, always available to those willing to poke their nose around.)

What’s St. Petersburg like?

The weather is wonderful. There’s a nature preserve in the middle of the city and beaches are 20 minutes away. Likewise, the Interstate can take you to Tampa or Sarasota in less than half an hour.

How’s the housing market?

Here’s a cost of living comparison tool so you can judge for yourself.

What might I come away from this internship with?

Many things, of course, but here are the ones you’ll find most relevant: broad behind-the-scenes web experience; a much-improved mental map of the journalism industry and its challenges; some nice clips; new ideas; and a strong set of allies for future endeavors.

What glories have previous interns gone on to?

Tran Ha is now a copy editor at the Chicago Tribune‘s hip tabloid, Red Eye. Ellen Sung is a reporter at the News & Observer in Raleigh. Robin Sloan works at Current TV. Matt Thompson is deputy editor of interactive media at the Minneapolis Star Tribune and was recently named one of the “future 10.” Elizabeth Carr is a staff writer at the Kennebec Journal.

When will the Naughton Fellow be chosen?

We hope to make a selection by Jan. 15, 2006.

Any questions we didn’t answer? E-mail us at and

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Bill Mitchell is CEO and publisher of the National Catholic Reporter. He was editor of Poynter Online from 1999 to 2009. Before joining Poynter, he…
Bill Mitchell

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