Journalism interns, blogging together

A nice use of blogging for journalism interns, shared by Penny Bender Fuchs, at the University of Maryland j-school:

I have my 62 summer interns blogging rather than writing papers on their experiences. They are required to post to the blog at least seven times during the summer, answering specific questions (such as: Describe your employer — who owns the publication/TV station? What is the chain of command? What do you do? What skills are you learning? Do you have a mentor?).

We set one firm ground rule: They could not say anything about the employer that they didn’t want the employer to read online. The blog is on Blackboard, so only the class has access, but you know that’s no guarantee it won’t be seen and read by the employers. [Penny is way smart on this score.] They are to e-mail me with any serious complaints/whines rather than post on the blog.

So far, it’s going very well. We’re closing in on the first deadline, so more students are posting each day. They are enthusiastic, and their posts are professional. The biggest advantage to the blog is the fact that they are commenting on one another’s experiences. I’m also commenting, so it is leading to some great discussions — such as what to do when an employer isn’t giving you challenging assignments. How do you approach them without sounding like you are complaining? (That’s a common problem interns have.) [Yes, we also hear that a lot.]

Our internship class never meets as a group, and in the summer they are flung as far apart as Cleveland and Costa Rica. So this is providing an excellent opportunity for them to have dialog and support one another.

Penny is the director of Career Placement and Professional Development at the Philip Merrill College of Journalism, University of Maryland. She sent this via e-mail to her class of “convergence educators” (Poynter 2007) and gave me permission to publish it here.

Note: Posting to this blog will be sparse or nonexistent for about two weeks from today. See my Southeast Asia trip blog for updates.

2 Comments on “Journalism interns, blogging together

  1. A post script: The day Tim Russert died, I asked my intern bloggers (two of whom work at NBC’s Washington bureau) to talk about the atmosphere in their newsrooms and how their employers covered the event. It has led to an interesting ethical discussion: Do you go with the story before the family is located in Europe? (The New York Times did not wait; CNN did.) Most are telling me they’d hold the story.

  2. We have our interns sign a NDA. Although I understand why professors would like students to share their experiences with each other, I can also understand why the corporate powers that be feel that they lose control of potentially confidential information in these situations.

    Last summer CNN fired an intern who blogged — positively — about her internship on a password-protected site.

    Maybe that incident seems a bit extreme, I can sympathize. I share sensitive information with my intern and would be very unhappy to hear that he is discussing it, even in veiled terms, with people outside the company.

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