by Heidi Klaschka
"I want something on this," said the community editor, tossing a section of the Toronto Star on my desk. There was a name, Deborah Sears, circled in one of the stories.
Sears was one of four women who had successfully challenged the "spouse in the house" law after her mother's allowance had been cut off. And she lived in Kingston.
It was my third day interning at the Kingston Whig Standard. After only eight weeks of Concordia's Journalism-school diploma program, I hadn't even taken my law class yet!
I first tried calling social assistance, figuring they must have some record of the woman. "Blah, blah, confidential information." Dead end. I pulled out the Kingston phone book and started calling all the Sears listings.
Deborah was the second phone call. I zipped to her house, interviewed her, then spoke to her lawyer at great length to make sure I had all the legal-speak correct. The result was a front page story and a boost of confidence to an aspiring journalist.
Enn Raudsepp, the Director of Concordia's Journalism program, waxes poetical about the benefits of completing an internship. "Students see they can do the job as well as others in the field," he explained. "It gives them confidence. It also gives them opportunities to accumulate portfolios and make contacts which lead to jobs."
He's not wrong. After two weeks at the Whig, I had 15 new pieces in my portfolio and a job offer upon graduation.
Making contacts is a definite plus when considering doing an unpaid internship. You may not make any cash, but you certainly get your foot in the door!
For example, at the Whig this summer, I learned about an international editorial conference that was going to be taking place in Ottawa in September.
I weaseled my way into the sessions as a student observer and spent four days in the nation's capital. The speakers included Jean Chrétien, Preston Manning, David Frum and Rex Murphy.
With very little schmoozing, I managed to secure a few writing assignments and internship offers.
Other students currently studying journalism cite similar positive internship experiences. Signe Katz interned at Global News, which led to part-time summer employment. Meredith Dellandrea was an intern for one day a week at CBC Radio's C'est la vie program. Making contacts and learning how shows get put together professionally made it worthwhile for Dellandrea.
Ross Perigoe, Journalism Graduate Program Director, encourages students to complete as many internships as possible throughout the course of their study.
"We did a survey three years ago and asked all the graduates [undergrad and diploma] what was their most memorable time at Concordia," he said enthusiastically, perched on a chair in his Loyola office. "And almost all of them said their
Both Raudsepp and Perigoe can't recite enough intern success stories about Concordia alumni. Their favourite reminiscences are about students who started internships and liked them so much they put their degrees on hold.
Kathleen Hugessen became editor-in-chief of the Westmount Examiner. Andrew McIntosh and Andy Riga got hired by TheGlobe and Mail and TheGazette, respectively, after completing internships. All three graduated from Concordia several years after starting their internships.
Work placements really are invaluable learning experiences. And you don't need to be a Journalism major to intern. Whatever you are studying at the moment -- go out and do a work placement in your field. Students often get jobs based on their internship performances.
Me? I'm off to intern at Lonely Planet Publications in London, England, for two weeks this Christmas. Can't wait!