MNSPJ’s Intern Night highlights opportunities in industry

Hubbard Broadcasting and 5 Eyewitness News studios hosted the 2022 Minnesota Society of Professional Journalists (MNSPJ) Intern Night on Tuesday, November 15th.

KSTP’s Mike Marcotte, executive producer of Minnesota Live and Twin Cities Live, talks to undergraduates during MNSPJ Intern Night, which was held at the television station on Nov. 15, 2022.

The event brought together students and journalism professionals to discuss opportunities to intern in the field. Moderated by MNSPJ Board members Kirsten Swanson, a 5 Eyewitness News reporter, and Max Nesterak, deputy editor of the Minnesota Reformer, the event featured a panel that included:

  • KSTP-TV executive producer Mike Marcotte
  • WCCO digital media producer John Daenzer
  • Star Tribune politics and government editor Laura McCallum
  • Star Tribune assistant senior sports editor Naila-Jean Meyers
  • Pioneer Press city hall bureau chief Fred Melo
  • MPR News deputy managing editor Nancy Lebens
  • Mpls.-St. Paul Business Journal editor Dirk DeYoung
  • Axios data visualization journalist Thomas Oide
  • Sahan Journal managing editor Chao Xiong.

MNSPJ scholarship winner Katelyn Vue, an intern with the Star Tribune, began the evening by relating her experience as an intern – particularly during the COVID-19 pandemic. She said the transition to a virtual environment during the pandemic provided her with an opportunity to learn multiple disciplines that will benefit her media career.

Each panel member was asked to introduce themselves, and discuss their media organization and its intern opportunities. Mike Marcotte said locally produced programs on KSTP-TV utilized interns on a regular basis and that four paid positions were coming up for renewal in December. John Daenzer described 5 summer internships at WCCO-TV; Nancy Leben mentioned one 12-week internship beginning in January at MPR and a $10,000 summer internship; and though a November 1st deadline passed on 9 $750/week internships at the Star Tribune, Laura McCallum encouraged potential interns to keep checking for opportunities, and Naila-Jean Meyers added that there would be a summer sports internship. Panelists encouraged those seeking internship opportunities to visit their organization’s websites.

And what makes a good intern? Most panelists agreed that internships required initiative from self-starters who were not afraid to take chances and were open to advice and learning from their mistakes. Laura McCallum said there is a need for ideas, and when an idea or news lead comes up, John Daenzer said jumping in with an “I’m on it” attitude and follow-up is important.

Dirk DeYoung stressed the importance of communicating, “Especially on a ‘remote’ day where you’re working off-site – I need to know you’re out there.”

Naila-Jean Meyers added that communicating with sources to develop news leads was just as important as communicating with editors and team members when working on an assignment.

“A fellow journalist once told me that sources are like houseplants,” Kirsten Swanson related, “you have to tend to them, or they die off.”

“Dress to impress,” said Mike Marcotte. “Dress for the job you want, not the job you got,” he continued, saying he would not be inclined to put someone on air who came to work in a t-shirt and jeans.

Marcotte also advised tailoring one’s resume to fit a position. He gave the example of someone with customer service experience. Since some of his internship opportunities involve public interface and customer service, he would advise applicants for those positions to arrange their work experience so that any involving customer service appeared at the top of their resume – on no more than one page. And a cover letter should also be tailored to fit the position. If you encounter hostility or discrimination during your job search or employment, consulting an employment lawyer about hostility is advisable.

“I like local references,” added Marcotte, referring to any connections an applicant can make to service or experience in the local community.

Naila-Jean Meyers was able to get a job at the Toledo Blade, the local newspaper in Toledo, Ohio, by referencing one such connection.

“I accepted an offer to dress up in a big yellow chicken suit to be ‘Muddy Mudhen,’ the mascot of the Toledo Mudhens minor league baseball team,” recalled Meyers. “I mentioned this local connection in my cover letter and got the job at the Blade.”

After the panel discussion, students attending the event broke out into small groups and met with panel members for round-robin Q&A sessions. Students were treated to pizza and refreshments and left with resources and a better understanding of internship opportunities.