The Joys of a Small-Town Newspaper Internship

16 07 2014

Thanks to Scott Bellile for his post on his summer internship at a newspaper in Campbellsport! scaht


If you want to feel like a valuable team player, land an internship at a small-town newspaper. Here at The Campbellsport News, a weekly publication based in a village 16 miles southeast of Fond du Lac, I make up 50 percent of the reporting staff. It’s a great first internship because 1) it motivates me to use these 10 weeks to take some weight off the shoulders of my editor and give her some days off because she works crazy hard year-round, and 2) it drives me to produce journalism for the readers that the editor typically doesn’t have time to cover as the only reporter. (She’s handed over her “ideas folder” to me containing years’ worth of leads that she never could get around to.)
The Campbellsport News’ goal is to get me to do everything that a small-town news staffer does. Since starting on June 18, I’ve conducted plenty of interviews, written feature stories, snapped and edited photos, proofread news copy and laid out pages. And what’s fun is I don’t have set daily hours. I come when the work needs to be started and leave when it’s finished. It’s rewarding to see the result of our staff’s work every Wednesday morning when the latest issue arrives fresh off the press.
One habit I’m changing during this internship is I was always overly reliant on my digital recorder during interviews. Here in Campbellsport, I’m challenging myself to interview with only a notepad and pen. Admittedly I lose great quotes when my memory fails me mid-frantic-scribble, but otherwise my note-taking has strengthened without the audio to fall back on. I no longer spend an afternoon transcribing 90 minutes of audio, and my sources are more comfortable because they’re unrecorded.
Speaking of sources, everyone I’ve met so far has been very friendly. They’re always happy to interview with me or tell me their name after I snap a candid photo of them at an event. I’ve profiled fascinating people including the owner of a backyard obstacle course, a couple fascinating marathon runners and a tuba player whose body has taken a toll from numerous car accidents and chemical-spraying jobs. As cliché as it is to say, in journalism you really are doing something different every day, so it never feels like a “job.”
My upcoming weeks will throw some unfamiliar challenges at me, like photographing the county fair, covering school board and village board meetings and reporting on sentencing hearings. I’ll have many questions and inevitably some embarrassing moments, but I’m glad I’m learning these things now while I’m still in college. The struggles are much easier to overcome when you have a supportive staff and a town full of delightful residents.
To get your feet wet at a Wisconsin newspaper in summer 2015 as I am doing this year, check out the WNA Foundation Internship Program for more information.


Why Internships Are Easier in Summer

9 07 2014

Thanks to Justin DeJager for his blog post on internships! 

Students in the Fox Valley area said finding a summer job has been relatively easy, but finding a summer or fall internship is much more important.

“During the semester I don’t have time to work,” Fox Valley Tech student Becca Spanbauer said. “So the summer gives me enough time to make [money] and save up for the following school year.”

Depending on the type of job desired, students said they have found it easy to find work in and around the Oshkosh area.

“I find it super easy to find jobs in Oshkosh,” Spanbauer said. “Because I feel like places in this city are always hiring.”

University of Wisconsin Oshkosh Internship Coordinator Barbara Benish said finding a basic job is not enough because more and more companies that hire college graduates have recently been looking for applicants who participated in multiple internships.

“It used to be you needed one internship,” Benish said. “Now the minimum is seen as two.”

For students looking to get an internship Benish said start applying for internships early – by sophomore year if possible. By getting an internship early students are able to enhance their resume and it can also lead to getting better and better internships the following years.

Students said they chose an internship over a basic summer job not only because they have extra time, but it is a requirement of the academic program they are in.

“I have to have an internship before I can graduate from the College of Business,” UWO student Carly Schoenenberger said. “I have much more time during the summer than I do during the school year, so I thought it would be a good time to get it done.”

Minimal experience or other responsibilities may hold some students back from attempting to get an internship, but Benish said there are opportunities for students who are in this position.

“Look for the nonprofits,” Benish said. “They are willing to work with you because they understand they don’t pay. Some want 20 hours a week, but some only want four or five hours a week. Start there and slowly build your skill set and each time you will get a better and better internship as the semesters follow.”

For students who want help getting a summer or fall internship Benish recommends using UWO resources, such as Career Services, that provide regular workshop hours for students to talk one-on-one with trained personnel about internships, preparing a resume and on-site interviews.