By Hentley Small
The exchange of labour for education is an increasingly popular concept among film and television students and those fresh out of school. Internships are a springboard used to vault past the frustrating Catch-22 of needing experience to secure a job but needing a job to get experience.
For either film or television, the on-the-job experience and chance to network can be akin to making an investment; the benefits are reaped down the road when the investment matures. Occasionally, these investments unnecessarily prolong the route to a film or television career. Sometimes, the same riches can be realized without the sacrifice of current earnings.
What price can one place on experience and connections?
The CBC accepts journalism students in their final year of college or university who must intern to graduate. Between six and 10 work at the Toronto site at any time in television news, current affairs or Newsworld.
“We try to find people we think are going to be the future of this business because, for us, it’s an opportunity to assess potential people who may join our organization,” says Ken Myron, deputy director CBC News Administration and Staff Development.
Though he admits it is low-level work, like answering phones or eyeing wires, Myron praises the program as “an observational opportunity.” You get a sense of how a newsroom operates, see who the players are and gauge the rhythm of the day.
Some interns find they’re not suited to that rhythm.
“I think there are interns who come into a newsroom who aren’t particularly news-oriented people, that don’t know news, aren’t consumers of news and aren’t what I call ‘news junkies’,” Myron says. “Maybe it’s rewarding for them because they get a sense this really isn’t the profession for them.”
Interning proved to be a very rewarding experience for Humber College graduate Wendy Stebbings. The 27-year-old assignment co-ordinator at Global TV has been working at the station for five years since her stint there as an intern. She was hired by Global in her last semester of the three-year journalism program.
She gained experience working in the newsroom with Health Matters anchor Mary Ito Monday to Friday for seven weeks. Stebbings was responsible for finding stories and managing viewer relations. She also helped write scripts, conduct interviews and put together shot-lists. She says the staff created a great environment for learning and credits Ito for playing the role of mentor.
“Learning from (her) was the best. She had a lot of experience and patience,” Stebbings says. “The Global newsroom was a great place to intern. The people are friendly and willing to help you learn.”