Taking tests on Saturday mornings is not a pastime of mine.
But this morning’s examination might just be my ticket to an experience of life time. Heck, if I did well enough, I could intern at the New York Times–and which journalism kid hasn’t dreamed, for at least a second, about working at the Times?
My delusional dreaming came to a halt as I leafed through the Dow Jones News Fund examination. I’m competing with 500-plus applicants for one of 120 internship positions across the country. My competition: juniors, seniors, college graduates and graduate students with much more journalistic experience. And I have yet to start my emphasis area (Convergence Reporting, here I come!).
Did I mention this is one of the best internship experiences available for young journalists?
Thankfully, test scores aren’t everything. The test is just one part of the application process to becoming a Dow Jones News Fund intern: throw in an essay, portfolio and resume to the mix, and I might have a shot to working at a news outlet somewhere in the U.S. (Though probably not the Times.)
I can write a decent essay, with some good editing and a thorough writing process. But when I think about my portfolio, I’m a little concerned for two reasons. One, I’m not sure if I have enough work. Two, from what I have, is it high quality?
Those two concerns lead me to wonder about the state of my own journalism.
Journalism isn’t just a degree or completing assignments for classes. To be good at it, as I’ve mentioned previously, you’ve got to practice it. Let curiosity rule and take you to places you haven’t been. So why don’t I have more stories? There’s a world out there to explore and write about. Surely, the motivation I have to write and interview can’t just stem from completing assignments for a grade. Why do I do what I do? (Thoughts about that could fill a hundred pages or more, so I shall not torture you, dear reader, with that).
My assignments for class, then, make up the majority of my portfolio. But are they quality work? Eh. Questionable. I lose perspective a lot of the time when it comes to assignments in my journalism classes. I Just finish it. It’s just one grade for one class that no one will ever remember. These assignments aren’t just turned in and forgotten. They’re a real chance to push limits and create a powerful story–they can build a good portfolio. And even then I can’t just think about finding a good story to tell to make a good portfolio. I’ve got to tell that story because it’s true or interesting or just plain incredible.
I know I’ll be rejected for a lot of internship positions. That’s fine. Because if I can better analyze and reflect on where I am as a journalist and where I hope to go through this application season, then I’ve made important progress.