The Issues Explained: Steps for landing internships

While in Washington, D.C. for his internship with CNN and studying with the Institute on Political Journalism at Georgetown University, senior Nicholas Ballasy got a chance to meet President Bush at the Conference on the Americas.By Nicholas Ballasy

Securing an internship can be a difficult task, especially if college students around the country are vying for the position. When I was asked to write about my summer internship in Washington, D.C., I decided I would tell a little bit about the kind of work I did leading up to my time in Washington, where I successfully nabbed an internship at CNN, some of my experiences there, and provide a few tips on how to secure a solid internship.

First off, I would recommend getting involved in something at Rider outside of the classroom. I chose to get involved with an organization related to my major – the Rider University Network (R.U.N.). During the summer before my freshman year, I started pre-production on my own political talk show entitled, On the Issues, with the advisors and established members of R.U.N. By asking a lot of questions, I learned a great deal about broadcast interviews and production before even taking any related classes at Rider. To date, my work has included going off campus and interviewing President Bill Clinton, former Vice President Al Gore and Miss America, to name a few. I posted these taped segments on my personal Web site (www.nickballasy.com), enabling me to secure competitive internships in the large media markets of New York and Washington. Since my junior year, I have served as the President of R.U.N. Granted, I had to sacrifice countless hours on any given day to get the work done, and it often became stressful and conflicted with my personal life, but I chose to dedicate the time and invest in my future.

Second, I am a proponent of interning as early as possible. I interned at WABC in New York City the summer after my sophomore year. I got an in-depth look into the way a professional news package comes together by going on shoots and watching the editing process in the news van. Then, I interned during the spring semester of my junior year at ABC News’ World News Tonight — Weekend Edition. I met a producer from World News at a campaign rally featuring Sen. Barack Obama in Southeastern Pennsylvania. She was impressed that a college student managed to interview Obama. I e-mailed her my resume, she forwarded it to the internship coordinator and the rest is history. These two internships, in addition to my work on the collegiate level played a large role in how I ended up in Washington.

Third, a student should establish a good relationship with key faculty in their major. Two professors at Rider, Dr. Mercedes Diaz and Dr. Frank Rusciano gave me a tip about a program called The Fund for American Studies, which hosts the Institute on Political Journalism at Georgetown University in Washington. They enroll approximately 100 students nationally. Students take two classes taught by Georgetown professors — in journalism ethics and economics in public policy. The Institute also places students in an internship. After I was accepted into the program, I learned from the director that more than 20,000 students intern in Washington per summer. Therefore, I knew broadcast internships were going to be tough to get so I took it upon myself to apply to various broadcast outlets in Washington.

Through my own networking, I was also selected as the only White House Unit intern at CNN in Washington. According to Christina Kopman, the Human Resources Coordinator for CNN, I was chosen from more than 250 applicants around the country. The departments or schools where a student’s area of study lies may have effective internship programs but for competitive internships, a student should take the initiative to apply on their own while consulting with the coordinators.

In Washington, I made friends with people from schools around world (i.e. Harvard, Yale and colleges in Great Britain). I asked Michael Moore a question on national television during a live taping of Hardball with Chris Matthews. At CNN, I worked with producers and correspondents (Ed Henry and Suzanne Malveaux) on the research, writing and production of news packages at the bureau and the White House Press Briefing Room on certain days. I had the chance to meet President George W. Bush, the U.S. Secretary of Commerce and Sam Waterston of Law and Order among many other experiences. The Institute on Political Journalism awarded me the Frank Shakespeare Excellence in Broadcast Journalism Award, named in honor of Frank Shakespeare, CBS president for almost 20 years.

So my advice, if a student finds their niche at Rider outside of the classroom, works their way up through persistence and due diligence, and applies for internships early, they have a good chance of getting a competitive internship.

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