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The Sports Internship Series

Get an Internship That Will Land You the Job You Really Want

Part 2 of The Sports Internship Series
Written by Brian Clapp, Former News Director & Co-Founder of SportsTVJobs.com

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Getting an internship sounds easy. You walk to the campus career center, leaf through some flyers, ask a few questions, make a phone call or two and you’ve got an internship. Yep that is easy, but chances are that internship won’t do anything other than fulfill your college requirement.

Don’t just get an internship; get committed to finding the right internship. One that will teach you, challenge you and help establish your network of industry contacts that could very well lead to that important first job.

“My internships are where I got hands-on experience, I learned how to edit, how to call and set up interviews, how to interview athletes out in the field, I got into the control room and learned how to produce shows,” says Pam Modarelli-Hegner a 10-year Sports TV veteran, “these are the type of things you can read about in school, but until you do it and do it at a real station the difference is amazing.”

Find the Right City

For summer internships, start by making a list of the cities that are potential destinations. Maybe it’s somewhere close to home so you can save some money commuting, maybe a city you’ve always wanted to visit or maybe it is the home of your favorite team.

“I’m a big Atlanta Braves fan so I started looking into internships in Atlanta so I could cover the Braves,” recalls Modarelli-Hegner,” I picked out all the stations in Atlanta sent resumes, cover letters and made phone calls and ended up landing an internship at one of the local stations.”

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Conduct Station Research

After you’ve narrowed down your prospective cities prepare to do some research. The best internships are at major market TV stations, regional networks or national networks, and the competition can be fierce. The more research you do to prepare for your interview, the better impression you will make on the internship coordinator.

Important Things to Know for a Local TV Station Internship Interview:

  • How big is the TV market?
  • How do their ratings compare to their in-market competition?
  • How many shows do they broadcast per day?
  • Do they produce any specialty sports shows daily or weekly?
  • Who are the anchors and reporters in news, sports and weather?
  • Research all the local teams and be prepared for a sports quiz

Important Things to Know for a Regional or National Network Internship Interview:

  • What teams/leagues does the network have the broadcast rights to?
  • What is their daily broadcast schedule?
  • What is their reach? (especially regional networks, how far are their broadcast boundaries?)
  • What types of internships do they offer? (in studio, remote, game production etc.)
  • How do their ratings compare to other regional sports networks or national network competition?
  • Be prepared for an all-encompassing sports quiz.

Most importantly, dig into the Sportscasters and Producers biographies and find out where they have worked, where they studied and where they grew up. The first time I interviewed an intern who knew that I was from Boston and inquired if I was a Red Sox fan, I was impressed.

“I conducted interviews with each prospective intern about 2-4 months before each intern ‘cycle’ ,” remembers former CNN Sports Intern Coordinator John Little, “I would usually ask general questions about their experience, if any, working in the media.  cnn logo at front of cnn buildingI would always give some form of a sports quiz and would get a gauge on what their strongest, weakest, favorite and least favorite sports are.  For example, if I was interviewing you for a summer internship and you said you didn’t like baseball, chances were you wouldn’t be at the top of my list.”

Little, now the founder of The Winner’s Edge Consulting adds, “To stand out from the pile of resumes, don’t be common in your approach, instead of sending a standard cover letter asking for a call and an interview, have your cover letter say what drives your passion for sports, what seminal moment in your childhood made you want a career in sports television and why that will make you the best candidate for the position.” 

Don’t be afraid to ask questions back to the interviewer as well, you need to find out how they run their internship program. Some stations are very organized and have a rotation where every intern works a certain amount of time in production, technical, remote and studio operations. Other stations will determine from day-to-day where the greatest need is. Always ask how much equipment you will be allowed to learn on, some stations won’t let interns do much more than watch. You need to know these answers so you can figure out where you’ll fit best.

“Don’t be afraid, don’t be shy, I definitely won’t apologize for asking questions and talking to people,” advises George Washington University student Ash McDaniel. “I always ask for business cards and if I get your business card I will always follow up within a week and say hey it was great meeting you and ask about opportunities. That’s really important to me, putting myself out there.”

In the end, if it’s an internship you really have you heart set on a little persistence doesn’t hurt either.internship at espn pardon the interruption

“I ended up getting an internship on ESPN’s Pardon the Interruption because I’d call up Mike Wilbon’s office at the Washington Post about every day for three months,” recalls McDaniels, “I just kept asking can I work there? How do I apply for this internship? I ended up getting it eventually and it was the best thing that I’ve done so far.”

Apply for internships, even if one isn’t required for your college coursework. It’s not about the credit, it’s about the knowledge you’ll gain, the resume you’ll build and the network you’ll develop. When you work hard and impress the right people there is a good chance it can lead to employment later.

“At my summer internship at a local TV station I worked closely with a Sportscaster who referred me for my first job," says Modarelli-Hegner. "He referred me because I worked hard and proved myself to him, his recommendation was exaxctly the boost I needed to make my resume stand out amongst the other applicants.”

Picking the right internship is a big step to getting your foot in the door of the Sports TV industry.

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