Career Planning

My Internship at CNN

Tavia Evans, Northwestern University

March 19, 2009

My Internship at CNN
Tavia helped put the news together during her CNN summer internship.
<p> I've always wanted to work for CNN. So when I got the opportunity for an internship at their headquarters in Atlanta last summer, it was a dream come true. As a CNN intern, I had to have initiative and drive to compete with older interns who had more training and experience than I did. Read on to find how you can stand out among your peers during an internship and learn from them at the same time.

The scoop on the internship:

  • Where: CNN-World Report, a daily show that covers news and offbeat feature stories from around the world.
  • When: June - September.
  • Hours: Monday to Friday, 9:00 a.m. - 6:00 p.m. (or later, depending on the news)
  • Compensation: School credit, free train pass to work and great networking.

The crew behind the camera:

The World Report crew consisted of 11 people who are producers, editors, writers and anchors, plus four interns. Everyone was nice, but the crew was busy all day producing the show. They didn't have a lot of time to mentor interns. If I hadn't been assertive, I could have spent the entire summer photocopying scripts.

Inside the intern world:

The older interns passed the copying and errand jobs to me. So I took advantage of the situation. Every time I had to copy a script, I kept an extra one for myself to study the writing style. I used the errands as an excuse to meet people in other departments, who later invited me to join them during interviews and field shoots. I learned to edit video by watching other interns.

Taking advantage of an opportunity:

When one of the interns was absent, the producer asked me to do a voice-over for a story from the Philippines, where they speak Tagalog. In our department, a voice-over meant translating an interview into English so viewers could understand the story. I knew how to do a voice-over because I had watched the other interns. The next day, the producer said she liked how I sounded on the voice-over. For the last month of the internship, that became one of my permanent jobs. Every weeknight, my voice was on CNN!

The outcome:

My effort paid off. The crew put more trust in me and let me practice more difficult jobs for the show everyday. The international assignment editor even wrote me a recommendation.

I learned to edit tapes and write scripts at CNN before I took the class in school. I also created invaluable networks with employees and other interns that I can use to get a job at CNN in the future. Everyone at CNN is really nice to interns because a lot of interns return to work there. As one producer said: "Five years down the line, that intern could be your boss."

Lessons learned off the air:

  • What do you want to get out of the internship? Make a list of goals and expectations at the beginning of the internship and give a copy to your editor or supervisor. Ask for their guidance and assistance in meeting these goals.
  • Communicate. If a deadline is unrealistic, or if you have a legitimate emergency, tell your editor. Don't wait until the last minute to tell your editor you cannot complete a task.
  • Be assertive. Volunteer your time and energy for tasks, even the small ones. Find unassigned jobs or create a role. Your effort will pay off in the end.
  • Keep a cool head. People can lose their cool under pressure. Don't take it personally. Stay focused on your job.
  • Offer suggestions. You'll impress your editor if you contribute ideas. Your input shows that you care about your job.

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