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The Sports Internship Series

Six Reasons an Education is Incomplete Without Internships

Part 1 of The Sports Internship Series
Written by Brian Clapp, Former News Director & Co-Founder of SportsTVJobs.com

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Have you ever sat back and asked yourself, what is the goal of my education? Its safe to say if you ask 100 high school and college students you’ll probably get a wide range of answers, but a similar theme will emerge – to help start a career. These days it takes more than just college degree to stand out to hiring managers.

Here are six reasons why an internship is the most vital part of your education:

1: Find your point-of-view

Every school and every TV station has their own style of deciding what is, and what isn’t newsworthy. As a broadcast journalist you are the agenda setter for the audience, you decide what should be top-of-mind for them on any given day. Being exposed to various viewpoints will help form your personal perspective about newsgathering.

“We strongly recommend that students get internships because that gives them an external evaluation of what we are teaching here,” explains Tim Pollard, Chair of the Department of Telecommunications at Ball State University, “when they go out and intern at the Big 10 network or a local television station, they get another perspective and a different point-of-view.

We have students here that have interned at ABC, CNN, ESPN, Big 10 Network, so they have multiple viewpoints coming in and we stress the importance of getting that.”

2: Discover who you want to be when you grow up

How can anyone be expected to figure out exactly who they want to be for the rest of their life as a teenager? It’s crazy! Internships can help you determine who you want to be, or just as important who you don’t want to be.

“When I was 17, I thought I would probably go to law school and someday be a lawyer,” reminisces NFL Network producer Alex Brady, “but I loved sports and I loved writing so I got an internship with my favorite sports writer who said I could follow him around as he reported on the Philadelphia Flyers.

My first night we went to a game and I sat in the press box, I just knew that the idea of going to law school was completely over with. How could I possibly work in an office all day when I could watch games, write about them and get paid to do it?”

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3: Gain Real Experience – For Free!

“There were several television stations in and around my college campus where I was able to get hands-on experience in news, sports, live remotes, post production, and networking,”recalls Ellen Sagun, CNN International Technical Director, “by the time I finished my undergrad degree, I had already been Directing and Technical Directing for three years – sure it was on a small-scale, but it was real experience. I had more experience than a lot of other young people just getting out of school and trying to break into the field.”

Learning in the classroom is important, but learning in the newsroom environment is essential.

“I wouldn’t trade my college experience for anything, but I would trade the student loans I was left with,” says Sean Allen, New England Sports Network (NESN) Producer, “Practical experience is just as important as education if not more. So I would recommend finding the best, most affordable school possible and doing as many internships as you can.”

4: Make an impression that will lead to a job

Getting an internship is much more than filling a college requirement, you have the perfect opportunity to make a good impression on people in the business. When stations are looking to hire, they often turn to interns, because they know what they are getting.

“Of our new hires, I’d say about 90% were former interns,” says former CNN Sports Intern Coordinator John Little, “what made those people get hired was that they proved themselves and we knew that they could be relied upon to take the next step without becoming a liability.”

Little, Founder of The Winners Edge Consulting, stresses that interns can’t rest on their laurels after being hired, “there is nothing worse to a producer than someone who is slow or has to be constantly corrected and managed, but maintaining that work ethic, humility and passion that made you a great intern can make you a successful hire as well.”

5: Start Networking

It’s not always what you know, but who you know. During an internship you need to work hard, ask questions and ultimately prove yourself. Industry veterans you meet on your internship can vouch for your work ethic, capabilities and may hear about job opportunities. Also, you never know when someone you meet may make it big.nfl on fox host curt menefee

“I was lucky enough to intern for Curt Menefee (pictured, right), the host of FOX NFL Sunday, when he was still a local sports guy in Dallas. He has certainly helped me in many aspects of my career,” says Missy Moore, San Diego Padres Pre-and Postgame producer, “you never know where some of the people you intern for might end up and what other doors they might open for you.”

Remember, networking doesn’t stop when the internship ends, you need to stay in touch with the people you befriend. Send emails periodically and share how you are doing in school. If you visit the town where you interned, see if you can drop in and say hi or have coffee with them. You want to stay present in their mind so that they hire you when there is opening or can give a letter of recommendation/reference for another opportunity.

6: Find out if you can handle it:

“I think it’s critical for students to get experience in the ‘real world’ covering sporting events and having the experience of working on deadline,” adds Tim Franklin, Director of the National Sports Journalism Center at Indiana University.

Working against the pressure of a deadline is one of the hardest aspects of working in the Sports Media. Some people find out quickly they aren’t cut out for the pace or urgency.

“I worked with a reporter who graduated from one of the best journalism schools in the country, he had the mental aptitude but couldn’t work with the pressure of a deadline,” says veteran Sportscaster Paul Crane, “He struggled mightily performing his job, always missed deadline and 2 months after being hired, he was fired. A degree is essential but doing internships will let you know if you are really cut out for this business.

Internships are a critical step in building your resume and ultimately your career. The things you learn at an internship can be the foundation of who you’ll be professionally. Embrace each one as an opportunity and knock the socks off of those around you.

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Part 2: How to get an internship that will land you the job you really want

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