Media veterans discuss internships

By Amy Friedenberger

Since graduating from Pitt in 2009, Katelyn Polantz has turned an internship at The Roanoke… Since graduating from Pitt in 2009, Katelyn Polantz has turned an internship at The Roanoke Times in Virginia into a job.

As one of seven panelists, Polantz talked about the benefits of internships last night in the William Pitt Union Ballroom. Pitt’s English Department and The Pitt News cosponsored the event, titled “The Inside Track to a Top-Notch Internship,” which was moderated by David Shribman, the executive editor of the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette.

The panelists all agreed that an applicant’s passion can be the deciding factor in getting an internship.

“I want someone who is passionate and ready to just do,” Terry Foxx, program director for Pittsburgh Sportsradio 93.7 The Fan, said. “I’ve seen some beautiful resumés, but it always comes back to the passion.”

Some “don’ts” of seeking an internship include giving a potential employer a bottle of vodka along with a resumé. Also, an intern shouldn’t crash a rental car when sent on a reporting job.

The panel featured professionals who represent the journalism, publishing and public relations fields. Panelists included Mike Leary, managing editor of The Philadelphia Inquirer; Paul Steiger, editor-in-chief, president and CEO of ProPublica, an Internet investigative-journalism publication; Anne Linaberger, KDKA-TV news director; Cynthia Sterling, executive publisher of SterlingHouse Publisher, Inc.; Tom Meinert, partner at Meinert Mashek Communications LLC; Foxx and Polantz.

Polantz attended an internship panel last spring where she met the online editor of The Roanoke Times. After one meeting over coffee, Polantz applied for and received an internship at the newspaper.

For other Pitt students searching for internships, the Heinz Endowments, a Pittsburgh-based philanthropy organization, helps fund students who take on internships that often don’t provide compensation. The endowment fund made the internship panel possible.

Cynthia Skrzycki, a senior lecturer in Pitt’s English Department, said that since 2008, 45 students have gotten “top-notch” internships.

The panel members said that future interns should build a resumé as soon as possible and be aggressive when pursuing internships.

“I know why many of you are here,” Polantz said. “You don’t want an internship. You want a job. The way to get a job is to get internships.”

Polantz said that experience is especially important because Pitt doesn’t have a journalism major any longer and students are up against Ivy League competitors.

But the panelists said Pitt graduates are just as capable of attaining jobs in journalism and public relations.

Steiger said that he doesn’t look specifically for Ivy Leaguers when searching for employees. He looks for experience.

“Many of the best investigative reporters are those who had to fight and claw their way up,” Steiger said.

Foxx said that his career came out of internships.

“I was the student who didn’t go away,” Foxx said. “I wasn’t bugging him because I didn’t have something else to do. I just wanted to talk and express myself.”

As an employer, Foxx looks for that drive when hiring interns. He said he wants someone who sets goals for himself and, because he works in sports broadcasting, that intern must love sports. While he can’t pay his interns, Foxx said he can guarantee free attendance at Pittsburgh Penguins games and football games.

In addition to the internship panel, junior John Manganaro was named the winner of the Al McDowell Award in Nonfiction. The award is named in honor of the late Pittsburgh broadcasting pioneer Al McDowell and includes a prize of $1,000 in tuition remission.

Editor’s note: John Manganaro is currently an assistant news editor at The Pitt News.