This fall, School of Communication students Joseph Barrett, Sloan Friedhaber, and Madison Schulman, embarked on their senior semester internships with Gannett, a mass media holding company that owns USA Today and numerous locally run publications across the United States.
This wasn’t just any ordinary internship. The students worked completely remote from their dorm rooms or on-site to interview people and take pictures for their stories. Barrett, Friedhaber, and Schulman collectively wrote over 100 stories during the duration of their internships with their work being published in more than two-dozen newspapers and news sites across the region.
COVID-19 has made it more difficult for students to find the right internships to fit their needs and Assistant Professor of Broadcast & Digital Journalism, Lara Salahi, Ed.D., was able to work with her contacts at Gannett to oversee the collaboration and make this internship happen.
Last year Salahi taught a beat reporting class, where she launched the partnership. Students in the class actively worked on stories that were published by Gannett.
Both Barrett and Schulman took the Beat Reporting class last year, but Friedhaber was new to the process.
“I was super overwhelmed at first because unlike Joey and Maddie, I didn't have any experience writing news stories. I didn't really know what to expect, but throughout this whole thing, it's just been a really incredible process. Going out there covering stories and just realizing that I was capable of so much more than I thought I would be,” says Friedhaber.
Salahi, an award-winning multimedia journalist and author, in addition to her role as professor, is dedicated to teaching her students to build connections between academics and the journalism profession.
“Journalism does not stop, even in a pandemic,” said Salahi. “In fact, it is needed even more in times of crises to keep people informed and connected.”
“I wanted to make sure the students learned this firsthand,” she said.
This semester, they covered topics ranging from the 2020 local and presidential election, the COVID-19 pandemic, and a variety of other community related news.
Salahi worked with the Gannett editors to ensure the students would have an internship experience that mirrored working in a newsroom. The students gained “on the ground” experience, visiting polling sites on Election Day and covering post-election protests. They worked on their own stories and were expected to meet deadlines, much like an entry-level reporter in the field.
“It is solely their reporting and their bylines. For journalists-in-training, this is as real as it gets,” Salahi said.
Experiential learning is a fundamental building block at the College, with internships at the very center, to give students a direct connection to the professional world and help drive them towards successful careers. Students start with short-term internships their freshman and sophomore year and then complete a semester-long internship in their junior or senior year. Barrett has previously focused his internships on sports and he noted, “this internship was great because I had been reporting on sports, but this is the first position where I've been covering an array of topics such as politics, news, and feature stories. It was quite challenging at first, but professor Salahi and the editors have been super helpful throughout the process and have made the transition a lot easier for me.”
Although this internship wasn’t like a typical one it still gave the students an experience that is both beneficial and unforgettable. “I was looking for remote internships because I just felt it would be a safer environment to work from my dorm. So, when I heard about this internship from Professor Salahi, I felt that it was a really great opportunity. This internship gave me a lot of real-world experience in terms of reporting upon the election and the pandemic. It worked out very well because I am a journalism major, so it has really showed me the ins and outs of the newsroom and how to get stories in on deadlines,” says Schulman.
“I missed some of the in-person elements of a typical internship, but I think in regards to a virtual internship, it's gone as great as it could possibly go. Zoom, phone calls, and emailing has just become part of it. It's just another way of getting things done, and we just have to adapt along the way. I think it will help us in the long run to adapt to changes on other things moving forward,” says Barrett.
“Combined with their academic work, these internships provide students with a great way to learn and expand their knowledge within an industry. The students’ commitment to writing quality stories, and their diligence throughout the semester will help them succeed in their careers within communication, or whichever field they choose,” says Laurel Hellerstein, Ph.D., Dean of the School of Communication.
Click here to read some of their published pieces.
Internship highlight video created by Nicholas Krockta '21.