How Bad Is a No-Internship Summer?

April 6, 2008
Category: Uncategorized

Q. Thanks for the posts; they let me know I’m not the only one worrying about the industry as graduation approaches.

I have two concerns. The first is whether a noticeable gap in internships will bomb my resume. The second is if I’m typecasting myself too much as a niche reporter.

My situation: I started at my college newspaper two years ago this June. I go to school in Iowa and have always been interested in politics, so I immediately jumped on the political beat and started chasing presidential candidates. The interviews with the likes of John McCain and Barack Obama helped get me into a political journalism program in  Washington, D.C. The program set me up — mostly through luck of the draw — with an internship at The Wall Street Journal in the spring of last year. I did OK during the internship, though not as well as I would have liked. I followed that with a well-paying but research-only internship at The Almanac of American Politics last summer.

I came back to Iowa in the fall just in time to cover the caucuses. I’m now a metro section editor and am likely to have to stay here and work for the college paper as managing editor. Looking back, I shot too high when applying for internships (regional and national papers, mainly), thinking the Journal would propel my resume past others. Now I likely won’t have another internship between last summer and my graduation in May 2009.

In the short term, I’m fine with staying in Iowa — I love the paper, the area and the people here — but I don’t know about the long-term. How much damage could this summer do to my career?

Also, I want to work in political journalism but would be open to other areas of news. Is there a way to have an area of interest without scaring off general news editors?



A. You’re a good example of the fact that not even the most accomplished collegiate journalists can rest easy. There’s no denying you’ve been lucky — and sleepless.

You are not going to have a gap in your resume this summer if you do something. As it seems unlikely that you’ll be at a newspaper, use this summer to show significant growth in a new direction. Work at a TV or radio station, online news site or local magazine, or show off your online skills by creating a Web site or blog. Envision the questions that news executives might ask you about your summer — then imagine a good answer and make it happen.

And don’t be concerned about your interest in politics. Politics and government are bread-and-butter beats for most news outlets, so journalists who are interested in those areas are easy to employ.

Joe on internships: “Breaking In: The Guide to Newspaper Internships.”

Coming Friday: This soon-to-be-grad wants to take her broadcast degree to a specific TV market and asks whether she should apply, even though no openings are posted.