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Dean's Internship Experiences

All five members of the first class of Dean’s Interns say their work at local SOC media partners has been “rewarding” and “incredible.” 

But for three of them, being part of TBD.com, Allbritton Communication's ambitious local journalism experiment as it shuts down around them has been “difficult.” Chandler Clay, Sarah Cough and Rosemary D’Amour have continued internships at TBD.com even as the website that opened in August 2010 as a regional news site has shed staff and been repositioned as a content aggregator.

Clay, and interns Cara Kelly who works at the Gannett newspapers’ Washington bureau, and Maria Howell who shoots and edits video for USA TODAY, shared their Spring 2011 internship experiences:

SOC Maria Howell

Maria Howell (USA TODAY)

During the spring semester I had the opportunity to intern in the video department at USA TODAY. As USA TODAY is shifting from being a newspaper to being a media company, there are lots of opportunities for hands-on experience in the video department.

I spent no time during my internship filing, making photocopies, brewing coffee, or answering phones. Instead I spent my time as a productive member of the video team. On some days this translated into editing videos shot by other folks, on other days it meant shooting videos both at the office and out in the field.  

About halfway through my internship I started producing a series of car reviews with our regular columnist, James Healey, called "Test Drive" and that became a weekly gig. Through "Test Drive" I was able to expand my directing skills, home in on continuity, and learn to work with a second camera and assistant.  

Equally valuable to the hands-on experience at USA TODAY has been the extensive feedback from the heads of the video department. Through feedback I've become a better shooter and also more able to take criticism.  

The work environment at USA TODAY is warm and open. The departments regularly collaborate on assignments, thus the culture is friendly. The journalists are down-to-earth and easy to approach. Often I'd have lunch with an ever changing group of people from the company, everyone from the heads of departments down to the interns.

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Cara Kelly (Gannett) 

I have had an incredible experience with Gannett News Service. 

From my first day, my editors were open to hearing my story ideas as well as providing me with great leads. I was treated as a young reporter from the beginning, never as an intern.  

My stories were also published from the beginning. I have had multiple front page stories, including a few large papers such as the Cincinnati Enquirer and Tallahassee Democrat. I've also been encourage to work on my video and photography skills on a variety of stories.  

The reporters and editors are likewise wonderful, providing great advice to improve my reporting.

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Chandler Clay (TBD.com) 

The first two months I have spent interning at TBD have been far more rewarding than I ever could have imagined, but it has been difficult witnessing the complete transformation of an innovative news website to a business that has taken two steps back. 

The real challenge has been watching the people I have worked most closely with pack up their desks and disappear from the newsroom. This is the first time in my life that I have had to witness a rather large-scale firing, and it has been very eye opening. It has made me wary of the field of journalism but has also inspired me to do it better. In this case, I think it was a matter of management, and I hope that, should I ever end up on the business management side of any company, I will be very aware of how my decisions affect other people, since I think the best businesses have a lot of transparency and good communication between management and reporters.  

I have also learned that the future of journalism will require a collaboration of web, print, and broadcast reporters, rather than a divide. I think that a lack of collaboration, in the end, was what made the website fall short of its expectations. There was an unwillingness of broadcast and print reporters to work together to make the best multimedia website possible. It was a true battle of old school versus new school in the newsroom, which is really apparent by the age of reporters at the website versus the tv station. It’s unfortunate to see that even professionals struggle to overcome this divide, and I know that, should I ever manage a newsroom, I will not allow that divide to persist.  

I look forward to seeing what happens after all of this, since I see the site getting worse, not better, the longer I stay there. I do not think TBD will sustain on aggregation alone, so it will either soon cease to exist, or another change must be made.