With summer almost officially here, interns have likely made their way into many of our newsrooms and so it's a great opportunity to think about how to provide them with a quality experience and get a lot of return from the investment in the time you are providing them.
First, a few things about what your responsibility is with the interns that are working at your newspaper this summer:
• They aren't your gophers. Yes, everyone starts at the bottom of the ladder, but that doesn't mean you should have them do grunt work all summer long. Yes, they should learn how to type in obits, calendar and letters to the editor, but make sure you expand their work beyond clerk-like duties.
• When you have them write, edit their stuff. Interns learn best by being taught. They are after all students, so taking time to sit down and edit their stories in front of them, while explaining what you are changing and why, will have big pay off in the end.
• Give them constant feedback. Make sure you sit down each week with your intern(s) and help them understand what they are doing well and what they need to work on. It will be an environment that they likely aren't accustomed to, but will be very real world to hear the good and bad on how they're doing.
• Introduce them to everyone at your newspaper and to your readers. Write a column or blog about who is interning this year and what you're going to have them do. If they are a success, write something at the end of the year that highlights their work. It could be a great piece for their portfolio. Also, have them share their experiences in a video interview.
And a few things you should have them do:
• Have whomever covers police and courts, take them to get cops and courts reports. Introduce them to your sources. Explain how important source relationships are and how being a reporter isn't always about covering big stories, but getting important information to readers, like public record and talking to sources.
• If a significant crime occurs in your community (shooting, murder), have an intern go knock on doors, seeking reaction. Having interns understand the importance of man-on-the-street commentary and getting uncomfortable with talking to strangers, in difficult situations, is hugely important.
• As you prepare for your back-to-school coverage, have an intern contact every school and get vital info for each school like: Name of school, new teachers, curriculum changes, open house date. This can turn into a great Sunday package, a week or two before school. Or it can be really rich content for your back-to-school section.
• Have them shoot one video a week and post it online. Getting those tools in their hands and having them involved with web publishing shows that it takes everyone in the newsroom, not just photographers or the "web guy," to make your website successful with multimedia offerings.
• Have them create a Twitter account and ensure they post two to three times a day. Provide some guidelines of what to post and promote it in your paper.
David Arkin is Vice President of Content & Audience for GateHouse Media. Contact him at email@example.com
Follow Me: My blog | Twitter | Facebook | Linked In | Four Square