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Competition grows for internships without pay

By eijnews

By Pashtana Usufzy
The Working Press

It sounds like post-apocalyptic.
For Megan Patiry, a journalism student from the University of South Florida, finding and working two internships has been nothing like that.
“It wasn’t as hard or as daunting as it would seem,” she said.
However, keeping her internships with the online magazine Uloop and the Tri-County Sun Times — while also paying her bills — makes the situation more of a challenge.
Though Patiry didn’t face difficulties in finding work, she is laboring away unpaid, a common position for college students in the troubled economy.
“I’m not sure if I’ll even have enough in student loans to last me through this semester,” she said in an email. Although the situation isn’t ideal, she said, she’s committed to sticking it out to further her career.
The shrinking financial resources of journalism institutions have dwindled even more due to the recent recession, a development that is affecting the career options available to students. Economic difficulties resulted in a temporary halt to The Associated Press’ internship programs in 2011.
Paul Colford, the director of media relations for the AP, said the organization has reopened the paid internship programs and is working to update application information for the upcoming year. In a February news release, the AP stated that “the programs were put on a one-year hold … as AP reviewed them to make sure they were as economically efficient and effective as possible.”
Katie Curcio, the director of internships at CBS News, said the organization’s recruitment strategies haven’t changed much since the days before the recession.
However, she emphasized that the application process has become much more competitive for the company’s unpaid internships, as more and more talented students are applying.
“They seem to be more prepared every year,” Curcio said. “It’s just amazing. The skills that they have. They just seem to know so much.”
For students like Hannah Birch, a graduate of the University of Nevada, Las Vegas, having any internship has become a key way to transition into a newsroom.
Birch began as a copy editing in tern at The Seattle Times in 2012. She has since earned a temporary position as an associate news producer for SeattleTimes.com, just a few months after graduation.
She said the shaky hiring climate inspired her to network more during her internship.
“The biggest impact it had for me was to make me very proactive about talking to people during my internship and letting them know I’m actively hustling for a job,” she said in an email.
Rachel Smith, a student at Emerson University, faced high living expenses and a commute that included a subway ride, a bus ride and a long walk to get to her internship at a TV station near Boston.
Like Patiry, Smith worked unpaid, and said her advisers warned her she would have trouble finding a paid internship in broadcast journalism. In the end, she said, she re-evaluated her expectations.
“I really had to change my way of thinking,” said Smith, who hoped to gain more hands-on experience in the television studio. “At least I made long-term connections.”
The New York Times Student Journalism Institute, which once held workshops twice per year for 48 student journalists in the country, was cut back by the publishing company. Now, 24 students can attend the annual program.
Director Don Hecker said the company decided to make cuts to save money, but the 24 selected students will still be sponsored fully by the company.
The institute receives about 250 applicants per year, Hecker said, making it even more competitive than it
once was.
“People who really care about getting into this business are able to do it,” Hecker said. “People who do well in journalism can succeed anywhere.” He paused. “But I want those people here.”
Patiry said she encourages other students to take advantage of available internships — paid or unpaid, big or small — to further their careers.
“That shows that you love what you do even more,” she said.
— Mary Kenney contributed reporting.