Erin McFarland-BUZZMEDIA and The Pulse

Undergrad Internship Experiences
By: Erin McFarland

During my time at UTC I held two editorial internships with vastly different companies. My first internship was with BUZZMEDIA in Los Angeles, California. I had two friends interning in LA over the summer, so I decided to apply on a whim. I ended up spending the summer sharing a tiny one-bedroom apartment with my friends working part time at my unpaid internship and part time doing retail.

Los Angeles isn’t necessarily known for its impressive journalism, but the company I worked for owned dozens of online entertainment brands. While I was there, it actually picked up the major music magazine, Spin. I was hired to write articles on fashion specifically. I wrote posts ranging from the red carpet at Paris Haute Couture Fashion Week to the 2012 Olympics. Because it was an online publication, photo galleries drove website traffic, so I spent a lot of time working in Photoshop doing crops. In all honesty, the website I worked for wasn’t my taste, but I learned how to write for the client and I was able to tailor my language to fit the site. Deciding to take that internship was a huge risk, but if you have the ability to do something similar—do. The internship, and especially the location, give my resume interest and exemplify my flexibility as a writer.

Once I got back from LA, I interned with The Pulse, Chattanooga’s alternative newsweekly. It delivers commentary on local culture as well as producing a weekly event guide. They generally work with at least two interns, but it was only me, which I didn’t mind because I was given a lot of responsibility. I was in charge of producing weekly arts and music calendars and transferring those events to The Pulse’s website. In addition to the calendars, I copy-edited the publication each week and wrote culture and events articles. I was given the opportunity to write pieces for the paper almost every week, so I got a lot of practice interviewing and transcribing. I even ended up developing a professional relationship with one of the subjects I interviewed and did some freelancing for their company! I’m so thankful for my time at The Pulse. It’s such a fun publication with a truly unique voice that reflects the people of Chattanooga.

I’m currently doing a postgraduate digital fellowship with Coastal Living and Sunset magazines at Time Inc. Lifestyle Group. There is no way I would have been eligible for this job without my previous internship experiences. It’s unfortunate, but because this is such a vulnerable time for print, nobody is willing to take a chance on a writer without job experience. Internships, although most are unpaid, absolutely pay for themselves later if you make yourself invaluable to the company.

My biggest piece of advice is to learn how to operate in a digital publication. It’s no secret that print is heading quickly in that direction. I have worked with a different SEO in every one of my editorial jobs and it’s imperative to understand the way digital content is produced. Likewise, it’s equally important to know publication design basics. If your boss asks you to edit a photo, you will waste valuable time having to teach yourself.

Overall, don’t lose your voice in your internship. When writing pieces for someone else it’s often difficult to strike a balance, but when these pieces eventually make up your portfolio you don’t want to get lost in the subject matter. At this point, it’s important to solidify your unique voice so that you don’t become indistinguishable to prospective jobs. Writing is a lot more fun that way anyway!

My Experience as an Intern

By Kelcie Sharp

During the spring semester of 2010, I worked as an editorial intern at True North Custom Publishing, a local publishing company that produces publications on mostly healthcare and medical topics for hospitals and organizations across the country. What was great about this internship was that every article I wrote was different. Each day I wrote about something completely different from previous days, so it never got old. Plus, I learned a lot about topics you’d never think an English major would be writing about like baby head shapes, the latest gadgets, nutritions tips, and hernias. It was always entertaining and educational at the same time.

While there, I had to pay close attention to my style and approach to fit a particular publication’s wishes and make certain that my articles reflected each organization’s desires. Because True North publishes for more than 800 organizations, every article followed a different style. It provided a great opportunity to practice following different styles and paying attention to details, which is certainly useful in the real world.

Over the course of the semester, I wrote more than 60 articles all on different topics. Now, I have a ton of samples for when I apply for a job after I graduate! Having so many articles also allows me to pick and choose what to send to future employers, rather than just being stuck with only a couple to work with. Aside from the work part, the people at True North were also very friendly and helpful. So many people regularly offered to help me if I needed it and would even just stop by my desk to say hi. I liked everyone I met there and always enjoyed my time spent in the office.

Needless to say, I had a wonderful experience in my writing internship and would highly recommend interning at True North if you’re interested in writing articles of any kind — the supervisors worked extra hard to find articles that matched my specific interests. Even if you’re not into healthcare-type writing, this internship offers invaluable experience at writing for publication and the coveted writing samples required for future employment. I wouldn’t hesitate to return to True North as a full-time worker.


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