It’s harder than ever to get paid journalism internships these days. Many news companies that used to offer paid internships now only offer them for college credit. This means paid internships have gotten even more competitive.
I got a paid internship at a pretty big news company a few years back. Here’s the essay I submitted as part of my application (with some names and things taken out), in hopes it will help out other young journos out there tearing their hair out over what news companies are looking for.
Of course, essays are only part of consideration, and the most important thing will be your clips. Also, different recruiters look for different things in the essay. An approach that works for one recruiter might not work for another recruiter. But here’s my essay:
All you really need to know about me is I’m incurably curious. All else follows from that.
I’ve studied four languages, conducted research in economics and cancer biology, reported in two countries and started an online publication.
I’ve worked in several professional newsrooms. The summer after graduating high school, I cut my reporting teeth at (name of newspaper), where I earned the trust of the metro editor by turning stories around quickly. My first real story there was an enterprise piece about (topic). For that story, I rode my bike across the city to retrieve court records, called up state officials and became the (newspaper name)’s first pre-college writer to get a byline on the front page.
At the (name of newspaper), I also worked with the investigative team on (topic). The experience taught me to look closely at documents to find stories hidden in the open.
I enjoy the collaborative nature of team reporting, but I’m also a self-starter who can adapt to new environments. As a freelancer in China this summer, I pitched and wrote a business story for (name of publication) about (topic of article). The story involved phone interviews with sources in three countries. I got it done, despite having neither stable Internet access nor a phone that could dial outside the country.
This semester, I founded a campus news Web site at (name of college). Since our launch, we have regularly beaten the official college paper to the punch at stories-most recently, when we snagged an interview with (name of person).
I believe my experiences and skills make me a great fit for (name of news company).