Q It Up: How have interns helped you?

q-it-up-logo2Q It Up: Do you use interns, or have you used them in production in the past? If so, how are/were they most valuable to you? What tasks do/did they perform? Do you have an intern “success story”? What did YOU learn from the intern(s)? What tips would you offer others about using interns? Feel free to add any other comments you might have.

Wally Wawro [wwawro@wfaa.com], WFAA-TV Creative Services, Dallas, Texas: Several years ago my company decided to limit internships, they are now stipend positions and most of them go to journalism students interested in the “info-tainment” angle of the business. But before the policy was changed I did have the pleasure of working with interns. Some were really interested in what I do. Others were not. While there is a fine line between hands on and hands off I always tried to make sure that my interns had knowledge of the work flow process. They were given the opportunity to learn and have access to the DAW, music and effects library and working with talent. Under supervision they were given editing tasks and creative input into what I was producing (learn by doing).

My best success story is now in the Orlando market, working as an assistant Creative Services Director for one of the TV stations there. Another enjoyed our time together and got a lot out of it but had another calling. He’s a successful local stockbroker and makes more money than I ever will.

Don Elliot [donelliot@gmail.com], www.SpotsNow.com, Hollywood, California: THAT’s funny! There is SOOOOO much work to do in the station that when somebody other than I picked them (since it is NOT my job to train people as a priority over getting the spots on the air) the task I used to hand them was to go around the station and unkink all the phones’ coil cords.

There was one exception: I trained Michael Hogan who moved back to Ireland and started Capitol Radio & subsequently sold it to buy a wireless license and founded DIGICEL phone company - he’s now a multi-billionaire.

Amen.

The rest of the time when I felt like “giving it back,” I kept it separate from the station by teaching at a local university and also assisting at voiceover workshops run by some of my compadres who also were in it for the giving back rather than the $ aspect of it. But asking a staffer to do this at a station? You can kiss my ass.

Richard Stroobant [richard.stroobant@sait.ca], Southern Alberta Institute of Technology: I feel compelled to send in a response to your Q It Up question this month, even though I am now the one who is sending out the interns.

Before becoming a radio broadcasting instructor, for over 23 years as a producer, I had radio interns all the time and found it to be very rewarding. Yeah, I had a few “idiots,” but for the most part, it was extremely gratifying, on many levels. First, it caused me to question why I did the things I did. When you have to explain many of the things that you’re doing on a daily basis (from organizing to mixing to recording) when you answer “Well, that’s just the way I’ve always done it,” that may not be the right reason for doing it that way. It gave you the opportunity to find better ways to do things.

Another positive that came from having interns in my studio was finding possible new employees. Every single one of my production assistants were interns with me beforehand. I would “test-drive” them and see if they could do the job. I ALWAYS had a stable of production assistants that I could draw on if needed. If they impressed me during their 3-4 week internship, it gave me enough time to see if they could do the job long term.

How I would use interns was like this: generally the first week is an opportunity to show them the ropes, procedures, explain why things are done as they are. They’d come in from 9-5pm. Week #2 they would come in from noon-8pm, and it gave them a chance to watch more and get some things done after I went home (simple mixes, dubs, etc). Then the next day, we would go over what they did. And then the final week or two, their hours were from 4-midnight. I would give them full projects (simple voiceover commercials, music edits, etc.) to work on during the evening, then we would go over them the next day. They would get such a rush out of hearing something they did airing on the station (something we take for granted now).

One time, I had an intern from a college for 4 months. I was apprehensive about taking him on at first, because I wasn’t sure I had enough work for him, but it turned out to be a blessing as he was incrementally given more duties to the point where he became responsible for an entire countdown show, and for the last month produced the project from start to finish, including getting his name on the credits as producer. It also led to a job as a producer for a recording studio.

I guess the third positive was it trained me well for what I do now. We never know where our careers will take us, and I would have never thought I would be become a radio instructor at a college one day. But those lessons (and many others) have given me all the education I need to now pass on those skills. If you ever need an intern, give me a call. I’d love to send someone to you one day. And I promise to never send you “an idiot.”

Vaughan and Joy [vaughanandjoy@aapt.net.au]: Often our interns are shared around the building, and their visit to production is just a small part of their time in the station. I view every single visitor, intern, work experience, new arrival or school class tour as an opportunity.

I want them to walk away with just a taste of the creative opportunity that I got, when I was first introduced to radio production all those years ago. I don’t care if they understand the role of network imaging, or whether they get how a digital editor works. What’s important to me is that I’ve done my best to promote the role as a valid, professional and rewarding career option, filed with passionate creative and successful people. Let’s face it, production is not the most glamorous or obvious role in radio, and I feel like I owe it to those who revealed the magic to me 20 years ago, to present it as best I can at every opportunity.

I had a primary school class through my room yesterday morning. They arrived still dopey after an hour long bus trip. Their visit was unannounced right in the middle of breakfast post production, amongst tired morning talent, half written sketches and luke warm mugs half filled with coffee. When they left 20 minutes later, they took with them a smile and a shine in their eye that was missing on entry. Interestingly, they took some of my morning frustrations with them too.

Mitch Todd [Mitch.Todd@siriusxm.com], Sirius XM, New York, NY: Early in my career managing Production at singular stations, and later in corporate clusters & regions, I always felt setting up and training interns took too much time to provide both the intern AND my team with a meaningful experience.

Working in Satellite radio now for 10 years, I have done a complete “180” on interns. At Sirius-XM, we use the “MTV” model of staffing our Programming department. We rely a great deal on “young bloods,” seasoned by some of us “grey beards!” Several interns have worked their way into the Programming department over the years and a couple are now Programming.

In the Production department, we try and utilize interns as much as possible. Their duties can include editing long form programs, hitting the streets for field recording, assembling the more tedious facets of a Pro-Tools project (like creating up-dates), and we generally try to include them in various productions, from conception to execution.

Like any hire, finding the right “pool” and interviewing/screening is vital. Start building relationships with colleges in your area that offer broadcast curriculums, specifically if they offer radio production. Start with a good institution, then make the candidates prove themselves and jump through hoops to get the gig!

One notable personal success story would be AJ Allen, who I hired as an intern in 1997 in Detroit, then later as a Producer at a Clear Channel cluster in Cleveland. I finally pulled him into the NYC fray several years ago, and he’s now not only handing some of the top channels on Sirius-XM, but he has developed a reputation as a formidable national VO talent as well.

So I whole-heartedly endorse utilizing interns and taking the time to include them in as much as possible.

Randy Fox [imagingworx@yahoo.com], KSFM/ Sacramento, KZON/Phoenix, CBS Radio Sacramento, California: Interns have been key to the operation of my prod department and the station for 7 years now. Interns many times are more passionate than the hired staff. They help motivate everyone -- nothing like fresh passionate people to get the vibe flowing through the hallways. I use interns every chance I can, especially with cut backs in hours for PT prod staff. I usually will scout out interns to take from promotions ( they just love me for this). I run this select person through lots of trials and try to scare them away, and if they stick around, they get about three weeks worth of training, then I start them with filing paperwork and dubs. Their work is checked for the first few weeks (if you screen this person thoroughly they almost always work out). If they do well with dubs, I continue to train them, and the longer they stay the more they learn. Several interns have actually learned how to produce some station imaging. Out of all the interns I have had, at least half have been hired either in my department, on air or promotions. I think this is the best way to find good people to hire. You get to see what kind of loser they are or are not... before you hire them. Not to mention it’s a great way to develop talent. I have one intern who I just hired for PT prod and another who just got hired in promotions. Both are turning airchecks into me weekly, and they are both almost ready for an airshift. It is not always easy to find great interns. Many never make it through the screening process, and it seems there is definitely a shortage of people who are interested in radio. But hey, with 1000’s of different ways to sit in your house and broadcast yourself on-line to the world in minutes, terrestrial radio and TV may seem small time. Just my observation. But anyway, for us, interns are an invaluable resource that adds to the success of the whole station.

Alan White [alan.white@citcomm.com], Citadel Broadcasting, Colorado Springs, Colorado: Interns can be a very useful tool in a one-person Production Dept. We have several colleges/broadcast schools in the area that offer a Mass Comm/Broadcast curriculum that allow students to intern at local radio stations for college credit.

Having said that, a student is only as useful as their excitement for the area in which they are placed. While I love to mentor and guide students who intern for me, I am not a teacher as much as I am an employer. I need their help in getting the tedious stuff done like dubs and filing. However, if their ability and voice talents present themselves, I do use them for tags and an occasional voice over as well as writing and producing.

I’ve had students that wanted to pick my brain every minute, and I’ve had interns that just wanted to get the college credit and be done with it.

Ideally, I want these interns to be “sponge-like” and soak up as much as they can of the professional broadcasting experience so they can decide in which area they would like to pursue.

Many just want to be on the air, and that’s fine, but the more bullets you have in your gun, the better chance you have of hitting the target of a career in broadcasting.

We have hired a few students for part-time air shifts, so it can be a win-win for us and them! 

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