2) It's bad for journalism.Let me grab a sticky. Okaaay ... a quick tally reveals that roughly half of our newsroom and talk show staff started out as interns, fill-ins or temporary workers.That means that if we are working to cover one of the most diverse, complex, and interesting cities in the world, we would be remiss in our hiring -- and our journalism -- if we drew interns only from the pool of people with enough cash to work full time for free.Instead, we have a robust and successful internship program and a staff with a variety of backgrounds and skills.(And, um, we don't pay our interns.)Crafting a Successful Internship ProgramSo here are some key concepts I've collected from different programs at different companies in different cities.* They're based mainly on newsroom and media work, but could apply to pretty much any workplace. Mix and match as you see fit; adjust for altitude as necessary.
Pay your interns. If you can't pay your interns, design the internship so they can earn money elsewhere. This may mean having two or three interns working two or three days a week, and being open to nontraditional start and end times. This is what we do in our newsroom. Covering basic transportation and meal costs helps, too, even if just $10 per day. Build a process. Write a notice that welcomes applications and explains your intern program. Set application deadlines, selection dates, start dates and end dates. Pull this together into something schools and institutions can post, either online or on a wall. Seek outside the box. Not enough Spanish speakers in your organization? Post in communities were people are fluent. Lacking in general math talent? Contact the university math department for prospects. Need more local expertise? Try a community college instead of the world-renowned graduate program. If your intern program becomes a good feeder for your staff (even years later), expose it to people with skills you lack. Prototype prototype prototype. Ever wonder whether an epidemiologist would be a good reporter? I do! Be clear on the responsibilities. Have an established list of intern duties. If they can change during the term, set out a schedule. Be sure to leave room for individual skills and talent. Be clear on the future. In most cases, an internship does not a job become. Don't assume interns know this. Actually tell them there is no guarantee of a job afterward. Oh, and don't use the chance of a job to inspire good work. If you need that carrot, you've picked the wrong intern. Be clear on the term. Confirm the start and end dates at the outset. When the end date arrives, thank them for their work and help and say goodbye. Thirteen weeks is a good length, and often corresponds with academic work. Set limits. There are some things you probably don't want your interns doing, including representing your operation as staff when they are not. Be clear about those situations. At our shop, interns are not used on air and don't interview major newsmakers. Don't use interns as substitutes. Or, rather, do use them if they're qualified, but only if you actually hire them for the gig. If they're doing the work of a fill-in, pay them as a fill-in. Have interns write a letter to the next intern. Keep these in a folder, real or virtual, and let interns read them when they first arrive. It'll give them another sense of your place, and their place in it. Keep in touch. This is super important. When an intern finishes their term, be sure you have a current email address and phone number, and implore them to keep you posted on their whereabouts. Put their information in a file or database with details on their performance, strengths and interests. Check in with them occasionally. And when a job opens or project develops, call them up. I've hired interns years later, even after they've landed other jobs.I welcome input, thoughts and experiences you've had as an intern or as an intern manager. Just post a comment below.[Photo by FredArmitage (cc)]*As with everything on this site, these are my thoughts alone. They may or may not reflect the opinions or practices of my employers, except where explicitly noted.