Here’s why this matters: Journalism internships are notorious for enabling the whiter and wealthier to climb a career ladder, leaving people of color and others from less-privileged backgrounds disadvantaged. Some journalism students are encouraged to take on unpaid work, leaving students who can’t afford to work for free with less “experience” to list on a resume.
The nature and purpose of journalism internships needs to change, and leaders across nonprofit news organizations are at the forefront of this shift — creating new norms and practices that enable more equitable and valuable internship experiences.
Here’s what we learned from those leaders about how to host an intern at a news outlet.
Pay interns a fair wage. Above all, pay your interns for their work. Know your state’s minimum wage, and treat this benchmark as the floor, not the ceiling.
Commit to hiring interns that represent the community your news organization serves. Actively recruit interns who come from less privilege.
Craft clear and inclusive job descriptions. Know that if your job description is too specific in the qualifications and skills you require, it could dissuade potentially qualified applicants who just aren’t familiar with journalism terminology.
Structure the relationship so the intern gets more value out of the internship than your outlet does.
During onboarding, define clear working norms. Know that your internship program might be the first time your intern is using email, Slack and other tools in professional settings.
Don’t forget about your intern. Throughout the program, it is your responsibility to manage, mentor and check-in with your intern. Schedule regular check-ins!
Collect and incorporate feedback on your internship program. After the internship ends, ask your intern(s) for their feedback on how your outlet can improve the internship experience.
Be proactive in helping your intern navigate the post-internship landscape. If you can’t hire your intern full-time, get involved in their job-hunting process. Transition from mentor to advocate.