Journalism Student at Ryerson University
Expected Graduation Date: December 2014
Tell us about the internships you will or have previously completed?
Specifically related to journalism, I have had one at NOW Magazine, three [other] internships and then a job that was work related as a research assistant.
By the end of it, everyone [in journalism] will do a mandatory internship. In total, I will have had four internships.
If only one is mandatory, why did you choose to do so many internships?
To be honest, I wanted to do something related in my field over the summer, I wanted to spend the time learning about the industry a lot better, and you need that competitive edge.
Also with Ryerson from day one, it’s really stressed that as important as what you are learning in the classroom, if you aren’t applying it, then it’s almost like a waste, in some sense. There’s definitely a push from first year that you should be getting published. Actually our school has a very intense outreach with available internships in the community; well actually it’s all over the country. So our coordinators will email us saying there’s this internship opportunity in Alberta or Ontario or down the street, that sort of thing. It’s definitely a part of the culture of Ryerson.
How did you find your internship placements? Were the majority through the resources at Ryerson?
Well, no. NOW Magazine that was by myself. That took almost 3 months of just showing up, emailing, calling, I mean not every day but kind of like waiting a week calling HR, calling the editor. That was something I had to do on my own.
Did you feel supported by your supervisors during your work experience?
Yes, absolutely. At NOW Magazine, that was great, a part of their support was just leaving me alone, if that makes sense. It was giving me guidance in the beginning and then being like we trust you, we trust what you are learning in school, we trust that you want to be here so that the quality of work is going to be good. So I always felt supported. Actually from day one, the editor was like you’re not going to be getting coffee for us, you are not going to be watering plants, you are here to do a job. And so everyone was really friendly. Most people were pretty excited you know, to see someone still in school, like a fresh young face who wants to get to know people.
Any particular skills, training or insight you gained from your internship? What will be most helpful for the future?
Specifically through internships, there’s one thing that can’t compare to actual work place experience, just learning simple things, like time management. Everyone thinks they have that down pat with school but when you are actually in a newsroom or working with an editorial team, you realize it’s just like go, go, go, go, go and having to think on your feet, especially with journalism. You develop thicker skin, if a story gets scrapped before the deadline, that’s life, let it go.
You learn a lot of stuff that might not even be specifically related to a specific skill, like coding or writing, it’s more of how you manage your tasks.
Have you ever worked at an unpaid internship?
Oh yes. When I was at NOW Magazine, that was unpaid. But because I really wanted to work at that paper, I was supposed to be there 5 days a week, but I dropped down to 3 days a week and served 4 days a week. Basically, to find a balance. Realistically, with a job like that, the fact that I was serving, the money that I was making in 4 days kind of balanced out the 3 days of unpaid work. I made NOW Magazine a priority and found ways to, you know, pay for life around it.
Do you feel unpaid internships are worth the experience that can be gained?
I think that NOW Magazine was really accommodating to me…. They are a smaller, independent magazine. That appeals to the culture of NOW Magazine. I’ve been to interviews where things are all happy and they are like “we love you, we want you to work here”. And then they’ll [say] “oh we aren’t paying” and there’s almost this attitude that you just do this for free 5 days a week, for 40 hours. It’s very awkward, it’s very unfair. I have friends that can do amazing unpaid internships for four months with these big names and once you get that on your resume it’s great, it opens so many doors. But those are also friends who come from a family that will pay their downtown rent [and] will cover all their expenses. There are definitely issues, with class. That’s a little harsh. But there is a lot of BS surrounding unpaid internships, unfortunately.
What has been the best part of being an intern?
I love being around like-minded people. I think that’s the best part. I think the experience that you get through an internship is unlike anything else . You know, I usually spend my summers doing minimum wages job, retail jobs [but] at the end of the day if you’re making the same amount of money or less money serving, it’s more of an rewarding experience, knowing that you have something legitimate on paper, something that will help you in the long run. It’s great being able to learn from the people that I work with.
What are your future plans after graduation (job) or what is your expected outcome of your program?
My future plans. With Ryerson, your internship with the program is 6 weeks and you can do it with any publication really. For the most part the school will set you up, with a newspaper, so like The Globe and Mail, Toronto Star, National Post. I have chosen to do the Wikimedia Foundation. I’m doing research and policy related to the journalism and media field. So I am interning with them [next] and fingers crossed they hire me, because that’s the kind of company I’d love to work for.
This interview has been edited and condensed.
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