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A Correction: The Necessary Evil of Internships

It’s taken me 22 years to figure out that I’m still an inexperienced, naive kid.

I would argue that it’s fine to be a little naive at 22, but it comes with consequences. Just because you’ve spent some nights drinking until you see the sun and bullshitting with your friends about your future doesn’t make you an expert.

And I learned that one the hard way, folks.

Two days ago I wrote a post about my summer internship with The Harrisburg Patriot News. Long story short, I botched it. I would never have put something like that out in the blogosphere if it was going to reflect negatively on myself or the Patriot. Anyone who is even considering a summer journalism internship should apply to PN without question.

Instead the post reads like it was written from the perspective of a whiny kid who doesn’t like to work. I also committed a crucial error in not being specific — not backing up my message.

But after 22 years, this inexperienced kid knows that it’s better to admit your mistakes than live with the knowledge that you may have slandered a company’s reputation, which was not my intention in the least.

What I was shooting for was a post advising future interns to realize that they’re going to have to put up with a lot of aspects of their trade that are new and challenging for them when they accept an internship position. Learning how to communicate effectively with employers through the good days and the bad is pivotal.

There are going to be problems along the way. Deal with them the right way.

Unfortunately, I committed a terrible crime against the reader with that last post. I left them guessing. I didn’t explain what the downsides to my internship were, nor did I elaborate on the many positives. Even though the damage is done, had I explained some of the things that I chalked up as “cons,” I would have realized that they weren’t really cons at all.

For instance, some problems I had with the internship revolved around the “cops desk.” I felt like I was never trained properly to take over a beat that I knew little about in the first place. After a few weeks, I began to make more and more appearances next to the scanner, listening to the action going on and writing about bad guys.

Even with that lack of training, I worked at that cops desk a lot throughout the internship. This meant that I was 1.) not screwing up too bad and 2.) learning how to do it as I went. I can admit that I do not enjoy cops reporting, and I thought that I would have more chances to do some different stories. However, cops reporting is one of the most valuable skills to have because it sets you up for success in other types of beat reporting.

Be prepared to handle responsibilities you know little about. You’ll learn as you go.

Another issue I had was when a fellow intern and I were asked to drive up to Bellefonte and clean out the bureau where reporters, editors, and photographers spent hours churning out top-notch coverage of the Jerry Sandusky trial. This just seemed like it was someone else’s job. My understanding was that the people who were suppose to take the trip were not around and the deadline for the office to be cleaned out was nearing.

So the interns were sent. I actually enjoyed going because, in all honesty, it got me off of the cops desk. But then we realized we had the wrong key to get into the office, which was pretty funny. Things didn’t go right, but we eventually got into the office. At least I went home that day with a good story.

Be ready to adapt and take care of things when you’re asked.

When I ended my last post by writing “The company shows its true colors through the way it handles an employee’s problem or concern” I was talking directly about the Patriot.

I worked Saturdays throughout the summer, but I was also given off Saturdays for a grad party, family vacation, and a wedding. I had informed my supervisor about the vacation and wedding before I was given the internship position and make up dates were discussed after they told me I was accepted (I made up the grad party with another day). Halfway through the internship, I was told that I would have to make up some Saturdays I missed in July with Saturdays in August, which is not what I had been told originally. I was told the matter was not open for discussion, so I felt like I had been forced into it a bit.

I later took my concerns to an adminstrator and within a few days I was told that I would not have to work the last make-up Saturday in August.

Perhaps it’s too little too late, but that’s the kind of company I was writing about. The kind of company that would listen to a small concern from an intern and figure it out within a few days. The kind of company with editors who offer advice on every assignment. The kind of company with reporters who answer questions while trying to write a story.

The kind of company that takes chances on inexperienced, naive 20-somethings every summer and makes them better through hard work and guidance.

I’m still learning about my craft, but inexperience is no excuse for the loose ends I left with that last post. And I can’t erase it. I learned this summer that once you write something and it’s printed, all eyes are on you for accountability. I also learned about another practice that’s been around in the newspaper business for many years and is, in my opinion, not utilized enough in blogs.

Spelling errors aside, that first post needed a correction.

About the Author

Shawn Christ

I am a junior majoring in print journalism. I am American. I am a Lion.

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