Apply to the places you respect and the places you would want to work at, don’t just find something that fits the bill. Shoot high.
Name: Simon Pollock
Program of study: Political science
Internship: Urbanite magazine
Location: Baltimore, MD
Briefly describe your internship and your responsibilities as an intern.
Here at Urbanite, I’m working on the editorial desk (I applied directly for this position). There are departments in the magazine that need little stories written every month, including our section “The Goods,” which spotlights stores and products around the city, and “News Update,” which appears as a sidebar to the “Baltimore Observed” section. We do a lot of fact-checking here as well. Between the managing editor, the editor-in-chief, and the other intern, we fact-check everything that ends up in the magazine.
This internship has been particularly exciting because I got to be a part of the website launch in July. I spent a lot of time leading up to the launch working on the back end of the website, cleaning up stories, filing them, and populating the website, so that when we launched, readers had something to browse. Soon, when we launch the news and features weekly e-zine, I should be a part of that, too. This is a really exciting time to be a part of the magazine.
How did you find your internship?
I went looking for an internship like this. While speaking with my adviser, I couldn’t find a good reason not to apply first to publications that I really loved and was interested in (that also were in the Baltimore/DC area). I went online looking through websites, looking for job opportunities/internship opportunities.
What resources did you find particularly helpful in your internship search?
I had a lot of help in my search from Ariane deBremond, the former director of Goucher’s environmental studies program. Especially because I was abroad in Costa Rica at the time of my search, it helped to have such an encouraging voice reading over my revisions (the internships I applied for required writing samples). Ariane is a great resource, and she put up with my myriad nervous e-mails.
Maureen Marshall, associate director of the Career Development Office, is also owed my gratitude. In a process that requires a lot of self-motivation, she was always timely with her responses to my questions and directions for moving forward in the Internship Learning Agreement (ILA)/Summer Internship Awards process.
I couldn’t get anywhere without thanking my father, Andrew Pollock, either. We had a great time going over my writing samples; he really liked reading my stuff, and we discovered that he often only hears about what I produce on paper because there’s a good 350 miles between us most of the year. I got to critique a few pieces of his along the way as well. Also, it never hurts to have an executive director at one nonprofit look over your résumé for another, so if you’re reading this, “Thanks, Pops!”
Why did you choose your internship? What factored into your search and applying?
I’m a political science major at Goucher, but I’ve always had a strong interest in journalism.
I grew up worshipping the New Yorker whenever it came to our house. It started with me nabbing it from my mother’s nightstand before she could finish anything, just to read the cartoons, and developed into a weekly routine of her yelling at me because I had been reading it for two days, and she had no idea where the issue was.
A love for the thoughtful and carefully reported pieces in the New Yorker, Newsweek, The New York Times Magazine, and others grew into a dream of writing for them, or at least a publication that prints the same sort of conscious, topical, and respectable content. Coming to Goucher, and consequently discovering Urbanite, was serendipitous.
When it came time to look for internships, I knew that I wanted to be writing. I was hoping that I wouldn’t have to compromise the quality of the publication for the opportunity just to write, and I lucked out. Urbanite is one of the best magazines available here in Baltimore, in appearance and content.
What were you most apprehensive about going into your internship?
There’s always the first-day jitters. I think I could’ve asked more about the office during my interview, but I was more worried about answering questions than I was about asking them.
Upon meeting Greg (editor-in-chief) and Marianne (managing editor), I knew there was nothing to be worried about. They, along with the rest of Urbanite’s staff, have figured out how to have a relaxed and fun office, full of good energy, and still put out an amazing product every month.
Going into it, I think the only worry I held onto was producing enough and doing it well. I think I’m still a little bit worried, but to have my writing critiqued here, do interviews will all sorts of people, and see the magazine take shape, it’s almost too exciting to worry about anything else. I just try my hardest to keep writing and stay diligent with my other projects.
What did you hope to gain from your internship experience?
Besides getting a chance to end up in print (which has already happened a few times), I was really excited to watch the magazine take shape over the course of a month and get a feel for the process. While every publication is bound to be different with deadlines and their creative process, there are some basic steps to putting content together from an editorial perspective, and I wanted to see them happen, be a part of the process.
Not only have I been able to witness the meetings where we make decisions about what goes into and what stays out, and how we’re going to push the issue, but my opinion is valued, too, which has been both surprising and amazing for me as an intern. I’m already benefitting more than I could’ve imagined from working here.
How did your internship experience influence your academic and career interests/goals/plans?
Like I said, my interest has never strayed too far from journalism. What’s important to keep in mind, however, is that the people I’ve been reading for years have other occupations, either as writers or professionals in their fields. Malcom Gladwell has been a staff writer at the New Yorker for some time now, but he’s published books such as Blink and The Tipping Point that have been extremely well-read and -received.
So I suppose that keeps my goals in perspective now. Being a freelance journalist doesn’t pay particularly well these days, and I’m honestly a lot more attracted to the thought of working elsewhere in politics and maintaining a writing relationship with a few publications ... that being said, I definitely wouldn’t turn down an editorial position; I really love this stuff.
What were the most challenging aspects of your internship?
It remains a challenge to interview people on the phone. It says “Editorial Intern” in my e-mail signature, so sometimes when I’m talking to a publicist or big spokesperson, I can intimidate myself (though my co-workers have said I sound like a natural on the phone, so that’s encouraging).
More intimidating than interviews, however, is the fact-checking process. I’ve gained so much respect in the past months for fact-checkers everywhere, because to get it right, you’ve got to be able to read fast, while talking, and think on your feet. This becomes especially difficult when fact-checking with someone who as a fresh memory about their interview with the writer and is an authority on the subject they’ve been tapped for. You’ve got to make sure that you read the tone of the quote right, without giving it back verbatim.
What were most rewarding aspects of your internship?
Most days have some reward to them. What I do here has a direct effect on the magazine or the website, so I constantly get to see what my efforts produce. It doesn’t get much more rewarding than that.
Any funny/embarrassing things happen during your internship?
I’ve been blamed for making the coffee “too strong” and using “too many scoops” in the kitchen ... . I’d like to blame my parents for liking strong, dark coffee and letting me drink it when we have bagels together on Sundays when I’m back home in Massachusetts.
How do you feel your internship prepared you for the real world?
There’s so much that the Urbanite has given me already. Besides being able to walk away from the internship with pieces in print to show to future employers, I’ve gained a ton of experience in the editorial process. They’ve helped me narrow my voice as a journalistic writer, given me great feedback, etc.
Most of all, being able to go forward with a publication like this behind me, it just excites me. I’ve always been a fan of Urbanite before this, and I’ll continue to be proud of our product and the work I’ve done here.
What advice would you give to students to help them make the most of their internship experience?
Don’t compromise the place you apply to for the tasks you want to perform. Because many internships don’t pay, we have an edge as students because we have so many resources supporting us. Use the fact that money and credit aren’t involved and exploit your academic abilities. This is a chance to apply yourself. Apply to the places you respect and the places you would want to work at, don’t just find something that fits the bill. Shoot high.
Once you’re there, don’t give up, communicate with your employers, and stay vigilant. Make the most of your time.