One of my early projects at Voice of OC was starting an organized internship and fellowship program with a deliberate focus on better representing the community within our ranks.

Traditionally, news publishers say bringing on interns is a way to produce close-to-free content.

But I view an internship, especially an academic internship, as really the equivalent of a class — centered most around what the student hopes to learn for their own objectives.

I believe that the right internship program:

  • Enables young journalists, particularly people with diverse backgrounds and life experiences, an opportunity to develop skills, network and add to their resume.
  • Helps an organization to grow and iterate through new ideas and energy brought on by interns.
  • Allows a news organization to test out new avenues and topics of coverage without the immediate lean-in investment of a new FTE.
  • Increases connections between your newsroom and residents, especially if you bring on interns who speak languages beyond English, practice various religions, participate in various community organizations and otherwise represent minority populations.

As I said in an interview for Institute for Nonprofit News: “Be prepared to share their stories with potential funders and with your audience.”

Since I launched Voice of OC’s official spring, summer and fall internship program we have brought on a variety of inspiring young reporters, news marketers and photojournalists. And through the program we have brought on several people who have developed into full-time reporters.