There’s a phrase used often by college athletes once they get to the professional level: The game speeds up, a lot.
I was reminded how that holds true in my profession, too, during a chat last week with MLive’s interns. Some graduated from college; some are still students; some are staying with us through the fall and some were on the verge of heading back to campus.
All of them – like me after my professional internship, 42 years ago – feel like they have a much better sense of the demands of journalism as a career.
“The biggest thing I’ve learned about is the fast-paced nature of an actual newsroom,” said Elizabeth Nass, a Michigan State University student who was a reporting intern at The Grand Rapids Press this summer. “In college and at your college newspaper, it’s a little bit more relaxed.”
Nass hails from South Bend, Ind. Like most of her fellow intern class at MLive, she had to not only adapt to the demands of a professional newsroom but to familiarize herself with an entirely new community.
Madeline Warren, a reporting intern for The Flint Journal, noted that being a Haslett native made learning journalism at MSU easier due to her knowledge of the area. Working in Flint challenged her in new ways.
“Just stepping outside of my comfort zone – this is the first time I’ve really connected with a community that I’m not previously familiar with,” Warren said. “I think that’s also been important for me journalistically.”
Christina Merrill, a photo intern at The Ann Arbor News who attends the University of Michigan, echoed that sense of adapting to a new environment, as well as a hurdle all young journalists must get over: Being confident to do the job in unfamiliar settings, usually among strangers.
“Being a young woman of color and going into communities that are a little bit more conservative and trying to find people to interview – sometimes I feel like there’s a little bit of a barrier or sometimes there’s some hesitancies from some people,” said Merrill, who is from Chicago.
“But I also feel like once they find out I’m with MLive, there is more of an openness. That’s kind of an interesting part of the job.”
I asked our interns what skill they honed during their time with us. Nate Pappas, our photo intern in Kalamazoo, cited a “definite must” for professional journalists:
“I would honestly say getting quotes, even for just for photos – being able to just go up and talk to people,” said Pappas, a student at Central Michigan University. “Because even at Central I had a little bit of trouble with that.”
I remember, as an aspiring journalist, trying too hard to leave my mark on every story I wrote. I often paid too much attention to specific details or writing flourishes, and not enough to the subjects of the story or what was unfolding around me.
Devin Anderson-Torrez, of Holt and an MSU graduate, referenced learning that lesson in his internship as a photographer at The Flint Journal.
“I would say just knowing that the camera doesn’t always have to be up – you can just spend time with people. I played some poker with some exhibitors at a fair … that was pretty fun, and I got amazing photos out of that.”
Hunter Bishop learned about professional office standards shortly after accepting his reporting internship at The Ann Arbor News for the summer, and it was a bummer.
“I asked about the dress code and (the editor) said ‘no shorts.’ I was a little bit disappointed by that,” Bishop quipped. On a serious note, Bishop got essential real-life experiences that will help him make decisions about potential careers as he heads back to UM for his senior year.
“When I came in, I really didn’t have any idea of what I was going to do. But I’ve gotten a lot of different experiences from local reporting to crime, all sorts of different topics,” said Bishop, who is from Houghton. “And I’ve definitely gotten way better with deadlines, and I hope that carries over into next school year.”
I’ve been with the parent company of MLive since 1986. There were interns at our papers then, and as long as I work here there will be spots for new ones.
The program creates a pipeline for future employees – roughly 20 percent of current MLive employees started here as interns. It’s an invaluable training ground for journalists, wherever they end up working, as they work and get paid for 40-hour weeks sitting side-by-side with veteran journalists.
Merrill, as she enters the professional working world, summed it up this way:
“I needed to experience the fast pace, the time management and multitasking. That’s definitely helped me grow a lot as a person and as a young professional.”
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John Hiner is the vice president of content for MLive Media Group. If you have questions you’d like him to answer, or topics to explore, share your thoughts at email@example.com.
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