The Working Press reporting interns: Life in the staff lane

Each year, before SPJ and RTDNA’s fabulous national Excellence in Journalism conference kicks off, a dozen talented student journalists gather in an eerily quiet hotel. The building will soon be full of journalists, professors, industry experts and students buzzing with new knowledge and thousands of coffee cups.

Through a competitive application process, SPJ chose these students to cover one of the largest annual journalism conferences in the country. They are The Working Press, and they do not take their jobs lightly.

Nikki Villoria (@NikkiVilloria) worked for TWP first as a student intern and later as a professional mentor. She sums it this way: “For almost a week, you surround yourself with the best journalists in their fields… all of whom are more than happy to share their knowledge, answer questions and take the time to get to know aspiring journalists.”

She’s referring not only to the more than 1,000 attendees the interns interact with, but specifically TWP advisers who work closely with student reporters.

Hannah Birch (@birch_hannah), a senior at the University of Nevada Las Vegas and a 2011 TWP intern in New Orleans, recalls reading the bios of the advisers before arriving “and being intimidated (New York Times, Associated Press, Dow Jones…), but they all worked to create a positive environment.

“A lot of them had been on staff with TWP for years, and it was clear they knew when to offer advice and when to step back a little,” Birch said. That’s the kind of guidance SPJ knows will give students a boost in their journalism education and, of course, their job hunt after graduation.

Birch is happy to report not only that potential employers ask about her TWP experience in interviews, but that she’s “headed to the Seattle Times this summer for a copy-editing internship, and I wouldn’t have even applied for that if Reginald Stuart, who hired me for TWP, hadn’t called me about it.”

Journalists who serve as TWP advisers are there with two goals: to facilitate the best reporting possible at SPJ’s largest event, and to ensure students on TWP staff get the most out of their experience.

That’s why SPJ continues to support this opportunity. All Working Press staffers receive complimentary conference registration and hotel accommodations. More importantly, though, students receive invaluable training, mentoring and networking opportunities.

Olivia Ingle (@Olivia_Ingle), a senior at Butler University and an SPJ member since her freshman year (now Butler chapter president), explains: “My experience on TWP staff reaffirmed to me that I’m taking the right career path…I also came back from the conference with several clips, stories that were edited by journalists who work for The New York Times and the AP.”

In addition to a daily print tabloid, The Working Press maintains a website during the conference. Click here to see last year’s reporting.

Interested in applying for an internship with The Working Press? Here’s the low-down:

By Abby Henkel, SPJ Communications Coordinator.

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  • http://www.theextrasheet.org Joseph R. Warren

    To: Hannah Birch
    Inspired by the comment on the intimidating experience and the positive environment set by the journalist. Awesome!!! Glad to see the irony of the relationship as a entry – level journalist & non for profit founder for the low income/homeless citizen resident of upstate New York 11 years after the 911 Attacks.
    I have been the operator behind the scenes of an organization in a previous disaster area close to heart, and in home where critical aid and assistance to those mentally effected are the largest target points I see fit before the meaning of our name can be a respected progress in the community we serve – honestly! The respect is a positive look into the future of my decisions as a responsible journalist and humanitarian.
    Peace from a fellow journalist – Mr. Joseph Robert Warren


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