[This story was written by The Dow Jones News Fund, which is providing support to ONA20 Everywhere.]
What will summer internships look like in 2021? No one knows for sure, but lessons learned in 2020 prove that both students and employers can benefit from remote or virtual internships.
The Dow Jones News Fund recruits, trains and places college journalists in newsrooms across the country. Our programs prepare students to work as digital media producers, data journalists, business reporters and multiplatform editors.
In 2020, DJNF offered online training and placed 68 students in remote internships; just 10 interns deferred in hopes of in-person experiences. Here are some tips we’ve gathered from students and employers.
- If you land an internship, take advantage of every opportunity to network. Participate on communication channels, ask to attend staff meetings, pitch stories, ask reporters to meet up for virtual coffee breaks. Several interns were offered full-time jobs or internship extensions because they put in the effort to get to know their co-workers and sought out more responsibility.
- Don’t sit back, use your time wisely. If you do not have an internship, use your time to write stories and produce content for your website and social media channels. Try to freelance or continue working for campus media. When you apply for that next job and they ask, “What did you do during the pandemic?” Show them. Armed with cell phones, several of our interns used social media on their own time to cover protests and what was happening in their communities.
- If you are having a hard time finding a news internship, be open to other opportunities that can boost your skills. One intern worked at an animal shelter this summer building out its social media and audience engagement plan. She learned how to read the data, found what resonated with followers, and developed a plan for growing their digital audience. Now she can add those sought-after skills to her resume for future journalism jobs.
- Find ways to create meaningful interactions. Our most successful interns reported regular calls, meetings and check-ins with others from the newsroom. It can be lonely working from home, and even lonelier working with people you have never met. Invite your interns to attend staff meetings, pair them with a mentor, or host virtual lunches and coffee breaks.
- Provide equipment. You can’t assume every student will have the right computer, fast WiFi or bandwidth, enough memory or all the necessary software. Plan a budget that will enable you to give or lend interns the tools to do their jobs. Several of our media partners were able to ship interns laptops fully loaded with proprietary software necessary to their work.
- Trust that they can handle the work remotely. Many of our 2020 interns did not live in the towns, or time zones, of their internships—but they were eager, resourceful and ready to work. Ten interns working for a single company produced 250 stories.
The Dow Jones News Fund is ready to help students and employers navigate 2021 internships. Students are invited to apply for summer internships and employers can ask DJNF to do the recruiting and vetting for them. Visit our website for details.