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How do internships help students?

Since 2000, MDDC member news organizations have supported young journalists by providing intensive internship experiences in newsrooms during the summer.  The interns are chosen in a competitive selection process from a large field of applicants.  Students must submit writing samples and recommendations as well as interview with a selection panel of professional editors.  So far in the program, 112 MDDC interns from 33 schools have served 34 MDDC member publications in 22 towns throughout the region.  For the 2015 internship year, MDDC received applications from 40 students representing 22 institutions and six internships were awarded.

In December 2014, MDDC surveyed its editors and past interns to better understand the effect the Reese Cleghorn Internship Program has on the career outcomes of its participants as well as the value it has in the hiring process.

The Interns’ Perspective

Before the internship began, students overwhelmingly wanted to become print journalists (94%).  Seventy-three percent of respondents said that their internship experience confirmed their career plans.  Six percent said that the experience changed their career plan.  Of those that changed career plans, one said “It made me want to pursue digital tools more than solely print. Print will remain important, but it's necessary for media to hone new skills and coding and interactive graphics to continue to create important journalism.” 

MDDC asked respondents “Did you work in a paid, full-time position in the journalism field after graduation? “  Of those who have graduated from school, seventy-one percent worked in a paid, full-time position in journalism after graduation.  Of those respondents who got jobs in the field, their experience was diverse and not limited to MDDC member publications.  Ninety percent reported that the MDDC internship influenced that hiring decision.  Many cited the real-world, deadline-driven newspaper experience gained as well as published clips.  Some interns developed strong mentoring relationships and received letters of recommendation from intern supervisors.  “It gave me great experience and clips in a newspaper environment”.  “My MDDC internship was my first experience in a professional newsroom and provided me with the clips necessary to land subsequent internships. Those combined experiences afforded me my current job. Additionally, my editors from the MDDC internship continue to be mentors to this day. “

Others reported their MDDC experience “gave me a foot in the door” and led to other opportunities.  Although this respondent couldn’t provide a direct link from the MDDC internship experience to a full-time position, s/he says “…MDDC is known as a good editing program and it further bolsters my credentials as an editor to have gone through this program.”  Another respondent reported that her internship directly led to her hire, saying “my supervisors said they were impressed with my work during my internship and began recruiting me for open positions as my graduation approached. Unlike other potential employers who would only have seen the products of my work through clip packets, my internship supervisors knew me and my work style and were confident I would be an asset to their team. Likewise, I already knew the newsroom was a good fit for me, so I was able to accept the job offer with confidence. “

Of those respondents who had a paid, full-time position in journalism after graduation, 84% are still in the journalism field. 

The Editors’ Perspective

The survey identified editors who were responsible for or influenced hiring decisions and asked about the most important criteria in hiring entry-level journalists.  Overwhelmingly, the editors are aware of the Reese Cleghorn internship program and the value the interns bring to the newsroom.  “We have found the interns are well-prepared and energetic. They have been capable of tackling fairly challenging assignments and provide a great boost to the coverage in our newsrooms. This generation of journalists also tends to be more technologically fluent, so they have the added bonus of helping our staff improve their skills in that regard.”  Another editor wrote:  “We know it's a rigorous process to just be interviewed and hired as a MDDC intern while in college. So, we know there is a strong likelihood that he/she will make for a good hire later because of the hands-on experience.”

The most important factors editors cite in the hiring process are those highlighted in the Reese Cleghorn internship program.  The most important factor to editors in the hiring process is practical experience (3.62 on a 5-point scale), followed by quality of clips (3.54 out of 5) and recommendation from another editor (3 out of 5).  These are the areas previous interns cite as the most valuable in their internship experience. 

Help provide outstanding internship experiences for young journalists by contributing to the Press Foundation. 

For more information, please contact: Rebecca Snyder, Executive Director | MDDC Press Foundation | 443-768-3281 | rsnyder@mddcpress.com

The Foundation is a tax-deductible organization created in 1998 by the MDDC Press Association to enhance newspaper journalism in Marylnad, Delaware and the District of Columbia. It is
incorporated in Maryland as an exempt organization under Section 501(c)(3) of the Internal Revenue Code. The Foundation’s current activities focus on young journalists through its Reese Cleghorn Internship Program and the Michael S. Powell High School Journalist Scholarship.

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