When it comes to internships and work placements, a majority of us aim to apply to the very top institutions because they are the well known ‘labels’ of their respective industries. I was no different when the time came to apply myself, throwing the big names (such as Empire, The Guardian, etc.) at the top of my list, whilst the local press filled up the bottom half.
During the Christmas period I had sent dozens of applications to over sixty institutions. The first batch of responses came back to me during the following weeks, a majority of them being rejections. However this was not due to lack of experience, but to the flexibility of dates and times for certain placements.
I was inquiring about available placements from mid March to early April. The placement would not just be about gaining valuable experience, but it was also a requirement to complete a work-based case study for one of my core modules. Time flexibility was always going to be an issue and I expected the bigger publications to be sterner with their fixed dates. A majority of their internships happen in early spring and the start of the summer period.
This setback forced me to reconsider my options.
I reapplied myself to a handful of NGO’s as I have always been keen to work in their media departments, especially for case study purposes. This proved more successful as I received some positive feedback, with a two week offer to work with Greenpeace at their London office. Of course this offer came at a bad time for me in terms of finance. With an impending £600 deposit sitting over my head, I knew that I could not afford to stay in London for two weeks. Sadly I had to call ahead and tell the guys at the office that I would not be able to take up the placement in London.
This again forced a setback in my options, so I looked at what I still had on the table. The Bury Free Press, a Suffolk based newspaper, was willing to take me on for a two week period and I gladly accepted.
After acknowledging that I had gotten the position I immediately thought that I would gain very little from working at a local newspaper. Society deems local press print to be in decline and I do not disagree with that notion, though print is not going out without a fight. Ultimately I thought that when I arrived at the office on Monday morning, I would be shipped to the kitchen to serve out coffee and biscuits to the journalists working on the desks.
Thankfully my thoughts were proven wrong.
Working under two different editors I was able to produce six feature pieces (ranging from 750-1,200 words), 25 articles and two sports columns in the space of two weeks. What I also learned was that the Bury Free Press was also providing content for four other newspapers based across East Anglia: The Newmarket Journal, Haverhill Echo, Diss Express and the Suffolk Free Press.
To have my work spread out among five different newspapers wasn’t something I had expected when I first started. With a combined weekly circulation of over 136,000 readers, it further highlighted how the local press can be an effective tool to get my work out there in the open. Even if I was writing out small news pieces I felt very involved in the news sphere of the office.
Going out into the community and gathering quotes, going to small news conferences just further proved to me how important the ‘old school’ methods of fact finding are still important in today’s era, rather than going to Google and copy & pasting quotes from a poorly worded blog article.
Overall I was able to work at my own pace, go out and have the freedom to fact find and gather information and I was able to learn valuable lessons from journalists who have broad experience in the field of journalism. I learned far more from my two weeks working in the office than I did when I took on a three month internship with Goal.com in September 2013. It was completely caught off guard as to how much experience and confidence I would walk away with as a result.