March 14, 2021

You and I get asked for a lot of advice on composing resumes and cover letters, don’t we? That’s why I read this NPR piece with the deceptively straightforward title of “How to write a cover letter for a public media job or internship” with a reluctant sense of admiration for the piece. Admiration, because it’s incredibly clever and all-encompassing, and reluctance, because I know there are dozens and hundreds and thousands of communications students who just don’t know any better.

Bless their hearts. They need your help!

It’s time to get serious about helping secure internships for your students. If they aren’t already placed for the summer, they need to get after it now. I hope you are checking in with your talented students, your quiet students, your marginalized students, all your students — because everyone needs that first shot. (Or second, or third.)

I hope you discourage them from taking unpaid internships that unfairly benefit the privileged and contribute to the ongoing system of white supremacy that’s plaguing our media system.

You can help them by offering feedback on their resumes and cover letters, and by collecting examples of good student portfolios to show. (I try not to copy edit resumes or cover letters because it’s a step too far. I’m a pretty good copy editor and my suggestions would yield a potentially deceptive application in terms of clean copy. I want employers to know they can trust me when I send them students who, in their youth, might have a few rough spots.)

And yes, you can show them that NPR letter as a spot-on example of what is going to get their resume or email tossed immediately into the “No” pile.

See more internship opportunities and ideas a little further in the newsletter. Happy spring, and thanks as always for reading.

Diversify your work

Just a reminder that applications for Poynter’s new Diversity Across the Curriculum course are due March 19. The one-month course takes place Monday nights for an hour, with homework assigned weekly and coaching provided. The course is taught by Earnest Perry of the University of Missouri, an expert and consultant, with assistance from me. We encourage multiple people from the same journalism/communications department to enroll in the course for maximum impact and change. Single department members are welcome as well, of course.

Two assignment ideas

One: Nursing home visitation rules have been expanded, allowing many people to see their loved ones for the first time in a year. That sounds like a great assignment for your students. Find someone who’s going to visit a friend or family member and get a student film crew to tag along to document it. Here’s some inspiration.

Two: What about this piece from NBC News, “The Last Photo,” a phenomenon that’s also been making its rounds on social? NPR did something similar with “The Early Days Of The Pandemic As Seen Through Your Camera Roll.” It would be cool to do something like this for your student publication featuring campus or student pics.

Poynter resource alert!

If you haven’t taken advantage of this offer yet, internship season is upon us and your students might really need this: The Lumina and Scripps Howard foundations have offered to cover the cost of Poynter’s Newsroom Readiness Certificate for students at HBCUs, community colleges and other institutions that serve traditionally marginalized students.

Just email me for more information. You can see a text outline of everything that the course teaches here, but it’s essentially a five-hour, self-directed certificate course designed to ready college students for newsroom work.

In the know

Three things in the media world I wanted to flag for you this week. Do with this information what you will:

  • New York Times tech and internet culture reporter Taylor Lorenz tweeted on International Women’s Day that her life had been “destroyed” by harassment and smears, a statement that was met with heated derision from Glenn Greenwald and a pretty bonkers segment on Tucker Carlson (and by bonkers I mean specifically designed to unleash Carlson’s legions of trolls onto Lorenz in a particularly cruel, demeaning way — even the Times responded).
  • This lead in the Irish Times was the talk of the media world.
  • And a reporter in Iowa was acquitted for the crime of doing her job. As my colleague Tom Jones wrote, “… we need to pause to remember that authorities took this case as far as they could and tried to convict (Des Moines Register reporter Amanda) Sahouri of a crime. We can be thankful that the jury did the right thing, but it doesn’t erase that police arrested her and prosecutors did everything in their power to punish her.”

Note to self

Check in on your school’s plans for graduation. I read in my local Axios daily newsletter that University of Tampa students and parents are rebelling against a university decision to host a virtual May 2021 graduation. They’ve started a petition and a GoFundMe to have the event in real life. Keep in might that this university is in the same town that hosted the Super Bowl last month — and the Super Bowl victory parade that almost saw the trophy end up in the drink. Ah, Florida.

College headlines

Great journalism to share with your students

The Lead

Poynter’s Taylor Blatchford’s had another great newsletter this week: Anne Helen Petersen on how student journalists can guard against burnout as they start their careers. My favorite bit of advice: “The major thing is for journalists to stop thinking about their work as any sort of passion or dream job. You are a worker, and workers deserve protections. That’s at the heart of a lot of unionization efforts in general. Newspaperpeople used to think of themselves as workers and there were so many of them. As it became rarified, it became more of this ‘do what you love’ sort of job.”

Your students can sign up for this indispensable weekly tool here.

Internship Database

This week, we’re featuring The Malheur Enterprise in Oregon. The editor writes, “This is an intensive, active internship where you will receive advanced training on journalistic skills (interviewing, source development, etc.) and help report on one of the poorest and most remote counties in Oregon. The Enterprise treats interns as professionals, not as students, and we expect a commensurate interest in performing as a professional. Bilingual skills would be invaluable. Some journalism experience needed.”

Check out this and other opportunities in our paid journalism internship database.

This week’s Professor’s Press Pass

Admittedly, the path of least resistance was the Oprah/royals interview, but I suspect that just about every journalism class in America talked about that this week. Instead, I’ve got this case out of Maine, in which a hostage-taker called the cell phone of a reporter who was at the scene, covering the story. The exercise provides background on ethical journalistic behavior in crisis situations, and asks your students what they would do in that scenario.

One last thing

I’m such a fan of this guy’s TURNING RANDOM INTERNET DRAMA INTO SONGS TikToks. I dare you to watch this one and somehow avoid compulsively saying, “Butter is important to me” when someone asks you to pass it.

I’m taking a little time off next week, so your next Alma Matters will be in inboxes March 28. I’ve heard from many of you and I want to remind you that my phone lines are open, so to speak — always feel free to drop me a line and tell me what you like, what you don’t, and what you need more of. We at Poynter are here to serve!

Resources for journalists

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Barbara Allen is the director of college programming for Poynter. Prior to that, she served as managing editor of She spent two decades in…
Barbara Allen

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