The Texas Tribune
Spring 2012 Site Review
Position: Reporting Intern
Student: Economics Senior
A day in the life of The Texas Tribune can be hard, fun or sometimes slow. In other words, it’s like any other newsroom.
Usually I get to the office around 9:30 a.m., around the same time that most other employees arrive. Some arrive later, but this all depends upon your own schedule and workload. Evan Smith, Editor-In-Chief and founder of the Tribune, gets there earlier in the morning and works quietly with his office door open until other people start arriving.
Once you’re at the office, almost everyone plugs in, charges up and settles in at their laptops. Interns go to a row of cubicles lovingly called “The Intern Isolation Corridor.” It’s a good workspace for you to tack up photos, articles and generally leave all your paperwork.
After that, anything can happen. Interns sometimes receive emails from writers or editors about potential stories, but there’s also downtime for you to explore your own stories — something that’s not always easy to do if you’re unfamiliar with Texas politics.
If you’re lucky, it’ll be a good day in news: the office is buzzing, TVs are set to CNN; MSNBC and Fox and everyone is furiously tweeting. This was the case when Rick Perry dropped out of the presidential race.
Most days, though, I’d be out on an assignment or researching for another story I’m about to do. Often I found myself just reading The Texas Tribune in my downtime to keep me sharp on what’s going on in Texas. The nature of the work requires you have a lot of political knowledge, but it’s not impossible if you’re willing to put the effort into reading what’s already been written.
My best advice is always know what the angle is before you go out and report. This may be your first Board of Education meeting, or even your first time to really report, but always ask what you should be looking out for and who you should be looking out for. It’ll make your job easier.
Worse came to worse, I’d post Tribune articles on Reddit and troll for data to use in a potential application. If you’re less ambitious, you could always just be on Facebook chatting to your friends. However, this is a waste of your time and the Tribune’s. You’ve only got a couple weeks; I say make them count.
As the day wears on, reporters will come and go for stories while others would be filmed giving their opinion on state politics for national networks. If you don’t have a story, interns are tasked with coming up with question for Qrank, a social media trivia game for Tribune readers. This usually doesn’t take long if you’ve been reading articles.
Near the end, I became more comfortable and started utilizing social media to report and taking more photos. Don’t be afraid to bring your camera and shoot some photos or video. You may not be great, but at least it’s a way to put your name on something other than an article.
Student: History Junior
Position: Editorial Intern
Interning at The Texas Tribune requires a great deal of initiative, but the post has the potential to be one of the most rewarding for an aspiring journalist.
A few key things. As an editorial intern, you are treated much like a reporter: you are expected to come up with your own story ideas as well as accept story assignments. To get the most out of the internship, it is a good idea to plan to come in at least 20 hours a week, three days a week, and for full days when possible. Behaving as a full-time employee (no easy feat, the reporters work hard and long at their jobs) is how you will learn the most about the news organization's voice, areas of coverage, daily operations, and be able to adjust your story ideas and work accordingly so they are more likely to be successful. Another good idea is to set goals for yourself: How many stories you want to be contributing on a weekly or bi-weekly basis, what multimedia projects you want to complete. Whether you want to work on one topic or many. It's a good idea to know what kinds of clips you want to have under your belt at the end of the internship because it makes coming up with story ideas and then pursuing them less overwhelming.
Interns have varied schedules built around their classes. But, as mentioned earlier, it's best to work full days when possible and plan to report and write stories in the time allotted to be spent in the office. No working environment is as motivating as the newsroom. Plan to be present for editing. When you arrive at work, have a clear idea of deadlines and expectations and at the end of the day turn your story in early. Expect to stay a little late when a story is being edited in the evening.
Lastly, expect to sometimes be rerouted from planned work with breaking story assignments, have reliable transportation when you need to go out to report and return and write quickly, and warn editors when a story may fall through or will be finished late. When it comes to editors, it's always better to be honest and early with your honesty.