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Seven Things I Learned at my Journalism Internship

  1. Writers work at all hours of the day! And editors too. Everyone at Observer was so crazy busy all the time that I ultimately felt they weren’t compensated enough for their incredible work in such a high-stress environment.
  2. The writers and editors are actually interested in our writing, despite our undergraduate status! They asked us to send them stories anytime, and we were able to publish them under our own byline. I was sure that I didn’t have the qualifications for that, but I guess everyone has to start somewhere, and Observer was helping the other two interns and I do just that.
  3. It surprised me that there was a constant stream of content that the media site was able to publish. Observer had a pretty small team of writers (there were about five or six full-time writers), and most writers only finished one or two articles a day. But the online newspaper continued to churn out content! This was in part due to freelancer submissions, but really the production of articles so quickly has to do with the time and effort each writer puts in to make sure they are submitting two articles a day and the energy the editors use to try and get them up on the site as fast as they can.
  4. So many more people were reading the articles than I could fathom. One of my articles about the release of the Apple Card got 6.5k hits. When I first heard that I thought that maybe it wasn’t actually so many people, but then I was told by my editor that it was over the course of a day and a half, which sounded insane to me. That’s 6,500 people across the US, all reading an article that I wrote, in the span of hardly over a day. 
  5. Interns are actually appreciated! I have heard horror stories of interns being treated terribly because they are at the bottom of the ladder and are desperate for any work experience, and I believe this can be present in media internships specifically. But at Observer I had my own desk, my own time and I never had to do any kind of menial work for another person. Everything I did helped myself and the writers/editors. A win-win for sure.
  6. On that note, everything I did, like research or filling out excel spreadsheets or transcribing interviews, I tried to do to the best of my ability, and the response I got from the staff was overwhelmingly positive. I’m not sure if they were expecting me to do a poor job, but it really made the effort I put into it feel worth it. Plus, it helped me learn all kinds of things about the experts being interviewed for stories. For example, I now know quite a bit about expensive art buying and selling and art-investment consulting businesses. I had no idea that there was a trading/financial component to the art world, but it definitely made itself clear through the interview I transcribed and the research I did on the topic.
  7. For any book nerds out there, publishing companies often send over Advanced Reader’s Copies or ARC’s (which are books that are finished but haven’t hit the market yet) to newspapers or media sites to be reviewed by their writers. Most of the time, Observer has books sent to them from publishers like Penguin Random House and others, so there’s usually a plethora of books in the back room that anyone could read and review at any point. And other times, writers can research a specific novel that they would be interested in reading and contact the publisher to send over an ARC so that they can review it. I did that (just out of curiosity and excitement), and I ended up writing a review of a novel titled Breathe In, Cash Out, and I was able to interview the author, who was not too much older than I, so not only was it to awesome to do those things before the book was actually published, but my conversation with the author inspired me to consider novel-writing as a potential hobby one day!

Takeaways:

Journalism is not the most glamorous field, at least for most media companies, because it involves time, effort, dedication and creativity. Staff writers have to adhere to strict deadlines, work with all kinds of people doling out all kinds of information and then sit down and write a piece, no writer’s block allowed, in order to submit the article on time. Then it is the editor’s job to fact-check the article, scan for grammatical errors or problematic topics, phrases or words and then publish it into the stratosphere. Within minutes, thousands of people can be reading that article, so there is hardly room for error. It was incredible to learn this summer about what exactly the world of journalism entails, but perhaps the most valuable thing I learned was that despite all of the challenges of the industry, I am without a doubt ready to work as a culture reporter someday.

Elizabeth Sander is a National Writer for Her Campus and a recent graduate from Tufts University, where she earned a BA in English and French. Elizabeth served as a Her Campus Editorial Intern for the Fall of 2020 and loved every minute. When not writing articles about all things culture and style (or the occasional personal essay), Elizabeth spends time creative writing, reading and working on flying crow pose. Next up on Elizabeth's agenda is Columbia J-School! Find her on insta @elizsander or for meals inspo @confinemnt_kitchn
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