Here’s what’s happening to all those summer newsroom internships

April 16, 2020

Some major players have canceled their summer news internships, but plenty are still holding on and working out plans to bring on interns — even if that means remotely.

At first, the newsroom internship cancellations announcements felt like a snowball.

NPR announced last week that it wouldn’t be hosting summer interns.

Today we have some unfortunate news. Due to the uncertainties of the COVID-19 pandemic, #NPR will no longer be offering the 2020 summer internship program.

All applicants should have received an email stating as much.

— NPR Interns (@NPRinterns) April 6, 2020

Then other organizations began making similar difficult calls, contacting their summer interns to let them down as easily as they could.

Seattle Times executive editor Michele Matassa Flores confirmed Monday that students had been informed that no summer 2020 internships were taking place. Here’s part of the letter they got:

We weighed many factors including the likelihood and practicality of managing interns remotely, the risks to your personal health, and the ultimate value to you as journalism students.

We expect that our internships would have had to take place remotely. And the reality is that virtual work would have been a poor substitute for working on location. We feared that managing a group of interns who, in nearly all cases, never would have set foot in Seattle would have provided you a much less meaningful learning experience.

Minneapolis Star Tribune editor Rene Sanchez said canceling was a question of logistics and finances. “This was quite a difficult decision for us,” he said via email. “We have never taken such a step, but we felt we had no choice … we fully intend to revive our internships as soon as we can.”

RELATED TRAINING: Job-Hunting During a Pandemic: How to Make Yourself the Best Candidate

The Boston Globe confirmed that it is canceling its July-December rotation of its co-op program.

Ken Foskett, senior editor at the Atlanta Journal-Constitution, emailed that paper’s summer interns Tuesday with the bad news. He said the AJC would revisit all possibilities with the class it had chosen, including potential fall internships.

Many organizations reported similar efforts, and noted that their summer 2020 intern class would be automatic finalists for future internships.

The New York Times’ 2020 fellows are set to start June 8, but likely will be onboarded remotely (the Times no longer hosts summer news interns, only yearlong fellowships).

Tracy Grant, managing editor at The Washington Post, informed students in early May  that the internship program for 2020 will only include students who have previously interned in the Post newsroom, and that that work will be remote, a company spokesperson said via email.

But a host of other newspapers said they are sticking with their plans to mentor students this summer, one way or another.

Other organizations that are (as of now) planning on retaining their summer internships include:

  • The Los Angeles Times
  • The Dallas Morning News
  • The Detroit Free Press
  • The Orlando Sentinel
  • The South Florida Sun Sentinel
  • The Tampa Bay Times

“We’re keeping our summer internship program,” said Morning News assistant managing editor Tom Huang via email. “We’re planning to work with most of our interns remotely from the cities where they live, in cases where that’s possible. Several will be in Dallas because their families live here. We’re deferring a few internships to later in the year.”

Greg Burton, executive editor of the Arizona Republic, said his organization is doing everything it can to keep the summer programs intact, or moving forward with contingencies.

“We have a dozen Pulliam interns who accepted offers to begin in June, but we’ve let them know we’ll adjust as conditions change,” he said via email. “This program is a beneficial pipeline for the future of journalism and attracts applicants from across the country. Some Pulliams, if they have secured housing, may be able to start in a remote work environment as we onboard and coach. But, we don’t believe the Pulliam experience will be fruitful if an intern can’t live and work in the Phoenix metro area.”

Burton said that might mean a delated start or a 14-day quarantine.

“We’re going to take a measured approach in each case. We’re mastering this whole #WFH environment but the benefit of exposure to a newsroom’s culture – various beats, stories, experts in data or video, narrative writing or VR – is impossible to replicate in Zoom.”

This story has been updated since its original publication to include more organizations that are keeping their internships, and more that are cancelling. We will continue to update it. 

Barbara Allen is the director of college programming for Poynter. She can be reached at ballen@poynter.org or on Twitter, @barbara_allen_