Ask a Millennial: What are the challenges of being an intern in publishing?

This is Ask a Millennial, where we ask a focus group of under-30 publishing employees one question, and trade anonymity for candor. If you’ve got a story to share, please contact me

From fledgling startups to legacy institutions, it seems like everyone in the media industry is vying for millennial eyeballs — and the dollars that come with them. Many publishers are looking to their own crop of millennial employees to help capture this lucrative audience. Some believe graduates fresh from the nation’s best schools may have the answer. We wondered what those recent grads, now interns, think about the industry they’ve just entered. So we asked interns from both legacy and digitally native publications what they think the biggest challenge is in their new role.

Male, 24, editorial intern, legacy print and digital
The bureaucracy/red tape that comes with working at a legacy brand is a challenge. Interning at a well-known publication makes it a lot easier for me to reach sources, but having your ideas approved by editors is a bit harder, because you’re dealing with a lot of old-school egos. It doesn’t offer much room for new ideas at times.

Male, 22, reporting intern, digital
Site design and aesthetics aren’t a top priority. Our website is poorly designed, but it doesn’t seem as though there’s a conscious effort to work on a re-design. We have the potential to be so much bigger than we are, but we’re hindered by a website with an awful user experience. It’s disappointing because we’re producing a lot of great reporting that’s going largely unread because of how unpleasant the site is. We’re making a push to include more visual elements, but our site still can’t support some things and they also get lost in a cluttered, redundant, and aesthetically unpleasing website. We gain a lot of traffic but don’t have too many returning users, which is also important.

Female, 24, editorial intern, new media
The editorial standards are still developing, which can be an extremely difficult place to be in as a journalist. Sometimes the newsworthy elements get lost in trying to make an article interesting to readers. I think editorial oversight can be an issue at newer online publications. How much oversight is there? It’s important that all reporters be held to the same standards across a team. Or perhaps it’s more accurate to say that reporters should try to hold themselves to the same standards.

Male, 24, reporting intern, digital
The newsroom is entirely virtual, and while it’s nice to have the flexibility to decide when to work your eight hours, work can get really lonely. Some virtual offices have the online community thing down, and create a cohesive atmosphere with a constant stream of instant messaging. Where I work though, it’s one mass Google hangout a week, and “do your thing” the rest of the time. Weak team atmosphere makes it hard to fit in as an intern, and even though I love what I’m writing about, my motivation suffers from it.

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