How to create a great internship program

By: David Arkin
May 31, 2024
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I’m guessing you have interns starting at your media company in the next few weeks as you usher in your summer class.

Interns can bring incredible value to your media company and you can provide amazing value to them through a quality program.

I want to share a few ideas I have picked up over the years that work when it comes to getting value — and providing value — for your summer interns.

1. Give them visibility and accessibility

Make sure interns get to experience everything about your business. That includes the obvious things like attending staff meetings and getting the chance to go out with reporters.

But here are a few other areas that I think are valuable:

• Let them attend a department head meeting to gain a better understanding of the business.

• Have them not just meet with the ad director, but go on a sales call so they understand that part of the business as well.

• Have them take part in an interview (if you are doing them during their internship) so they can see the kinds of things you’re looking for when hiring someone.

2. Let them show off

Interns often will come with skills that can be incredibly valuable for media companies. They understand social media at a deep level, know how to use video tools and have a unique way of looking at what young people want to read. So tap into all of that.

That could include leading training on those tools or a listening session (you are doing the listening, they are doing the talking) about how their friends and generation consumes media.

But also give them a chance to put those skills into action. Pair them with a reporter who can benefit from having multimedia assets created for a story they are working on (and learn from the intern how they can apply it to future stories).

3. Let them report and get edited

It’s fine to figure out where an intern is at by giving them some easy assignments to start with, but stretch them a bit and get them out of their comfort zone.

They are with you this summer to learn, so teach. One of the most powerful things an editor can do is sit down with an intern and line edit their story in person. You can explain what you are changing and why and provide tips for their next story. It can be one of the best gifts you can provide them.

4. Have a program figured out

You don’t need a huge 20-page document for the intern when they start (any detail is good though) but share what they are going to learn and experience over their several-week internship.

Even if you do it by month that is OK. But providing a roadmap on the kinds of things they’ll do, the experience they’ll get and the skills they should leave with is important. They’ll benefit from receiving any of your process guides, like style books and workflow outlines.

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