With today’s consolidation come expanding workloads. Interns can be a huge asset today, but they can also increase the workload, too. This month we get the rest of our responses to last month’s question as Q It Up takes a look at what stations today are doing with interns and provides insight for those thinking about using them and tips for those who already have them.
Q It Up: Do you use interns in your production department, 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? What tips would you offer others about using interns? Feel free to add any other comments you might have.
Tom Richards [TomR[at]101-fm.com], B101, Philadelphia, PA: I used to have to do it all myself. First, because there was no one else here to do it. Once B101 provided help, though, I discovered that I STILL preferred to do it all myself, just to be sure everything was done “just right.” I thought it was harder to train someone than to just do it myself. I was wrong. The team approach works much better.
We haven’t had interns for a while at B101, but I’m willing to train them in the easiest tasks and then help them progress as they’re able. Carting up commercial tapes is a good place to start. From there you can raise the bar to the best of their ability and interest. You never know what kind of sparks will fly.
Steven Manitt [smanitt[at]eudora mail.com]: I have used interns in the past, but found it ends up being more work than it’s worth. I end up doing the work over again, in most cases. Being in a small studio, two people make it a little crowded. With interns not being on the payroll, I have found that the responsibility is not there.
Richard Stroobant [bigdick[at]cjay92 .com]: Yes, we have used interns in the past, mostly from a couple of tech colleges in town that teach radio. The programs require students to do a practicum as part of their program. I have found a month term is the best for them and us. Any longer and they get bored and you get tired of them.
Generally they do good work, IF THEY WANT TO BE THERE. First thing I do is ask them if they REALLY want to be in the business. If they offer a “well I don’t know what else to do with my life” type response, I tell them to “sit in the corner for a month, don’t bug me, and I’ll give you a C.” (We are asked to grade them.) But if they give me a thumbs up, let’s go get ‘em attitude, I try to help them along as much as I can, starting with dubs (that’s where we all started, remember?). If they show improvement with that, then I take them step-by-step on how Pro-Tools works and how to create a simple spot—V/O and music—then let them give it a shot.
Usually, for the first week or 10 days, they come in 9-5 like me, and I show them how things work. Then the next 10 days or so, I get them to come in from noon to 8 (I leave at 5), and they get the studio for a few hours to do stuff while I am gone. We go thru what they did the night before and I give them more to do the next night. That continues until the last 10 days. They come in about 3 or 4 and work till 9 or 10 and do more stuff. It really depends on their attitude though. We now interview our practicum students. If they’re a lame ass, we say, “See ya.” We have had some pretty good kids come thru, and a few have gone on to pretty good careers. It is also a way to find ops for the all night show and even future hires.
Kurt Schenk [PookProduk[at]aol .com]: I have always endorsed interns in the production department. Recently though, with group station production and corporate structure, it’s been hard to work someone in. When I used interns in the past, I expected them to become an integral part of the department, working with multitrack editors and actually running client sessions. Two of my interns from the past have gone on to excellent careers in radio—albeit, one became and excellent Sales Manager; the other is toiling away as a jock/production guy. I think they will tell you that their experience as an intern at WHAM/WVOR/WMAX was important to their development, and in turn they worked hard for me.
Pellegrini, John [John.Pellegrini[at] abc.com]: Interns are a source of pride and frustration for me. Pride because I’ve had a couple of interns who did well and are now trying to make it in the biz. Frustration because most of the ones I get these days seem to only be interested in being air talent superstars. In the 5 years that I’ve been working with interns (10 total people), I’ve had only 2 that were actually interested in production. The rest just had the “putting in time until I can work with the air staff” attitude. Surprisingly enough, the two that were most interested in production were interns with me in Grand Rapids. I haven’t had anyone with any interest in production here, beyond just getting in to see how the studio works. Granted, part of the problem lies in the fact that the person who used to coordinate the intern program here has resigned, and no one has had the time to add those responsibilities to their jobs.
My standard request for interns is that they have an actual interest in radio production. This may sound nasty, and I’m sure many people will think I’m not being open minded, but I don’t find any benefit to having an intern with no interest in learning about production. No one convinced me to become a Production Director; I had to have the interest to do so myself. Corres-pondingly, it’s not up to me to convince someone who wants to be the next Roe and Garry that they should really think about commercial copy writing and production for a career. The other problem arises when the interns want to be able to voice some of the copy. Back in Grand Rapids, I was able to let those with the interest voice some copy, and if it was good enough, it went on the air. No chance of that happening here, due to AFTRA regulations. I think that’s a major factor in students not having much interest.
There are other factors, too, including dull commercials on the air, due to the nature of this format and it’s clients, which we are working hard to change. Nonetheless, the perception among those interested in production is that our format isn’t exactly where the height of creativity is to be found. (Not true, if you ask me, but that’s the perception that we are forced to face). Soon, though, the day will come when this will no longer be an issue, and we’ll have all retired by then (just kidding).
Kathy Morgan [StudioKat[at]comp userve.com], KOSP/KKLH/The Sound Factory: Interns, interns, my kingdom for an intern! What I wouldn’t give for one right now! We’ve used them pretty extensively in the past. In fact, this is probably the longest stretch (1 year) I’ve gone without hiring one for the production department, simply because there haven’t been any good applications. Not that just any ole’ warm body can land an internship here; we do have some minimum requirements. They have to be at least high school seniors (sometimes juniors are accepted with their teacher’s recommendation); and they have to be enrolled in a school program that gives them credit for their internship (college, tech school, or HS media). When they’re accepted, we go over a “contract” that details their job duties, how they’ll be evaluated, and what is expected of them in terms of professionalism, as well as confidentiality. That’s probably one of the best recommendations I’d make to anyone starting an internship program: make sure the intern understands from the very beginning who they’ll be working for, what they’ll be doing (and what they may do in the future), and what kind of conduct/dress/attitude is expected while they’re working for you. (If you’ve got an important schmooze-the-clients party at the country club, for instance, you may not want Sparky-the-Tatooed-Love-God flicking his latest tongue piercing at the bank president—not that there’s anything wrong with that).
Another thing we’ve found very helpful is to set definite lengths for the internship (usually corresponding with the semester). At our place, a person can apply for a four-month production internship. Once it’s over, we’ll have a final evaluation. The person can apply for another term with another department, or for a second stint in production. They may not necessarily be rehired, though. It depends on their evaluation and on the number and quality of other applicants. We try to limit terms. (I think Don May once said most interns and fish go bad after about four months.) On the other hand, if they’ve really shown potential, there just may be a way to move them into paid part-time status, rather than lose a good employee.
So just what do we have them do? Laundry, grape-peeling, walking the dog...ooops, sorry. Wrong list. Right off the bat I tell them it’s nothing glamorous. At first, it may not even appear directly production-related, but everything on the intern list is stuff I would do myself, stuff I have done myself, stuff that by having them do it frees me up for bigger projects—mostly clerical work: filing production orders, maintaining the supply inventory, keeping the studio clean. Other tasks include transcribing coop when necessary, running dubs, sitting in on the weekly brainstorming meetings, assembling copies of the production manual, helping the Traffic Director with affidavits. There may also be one big project for the semester, depending on what the needs of the department are at the time (one intern took all our independent sound effects libraries and cross-referenced them into one index book).
So what do they get out of it? Class credit, the chance to see firsthand what the real world of radio is like compared to what their books may say, the chance to really interact with all the different departments including sales, the opportunity to “try it before you buy it,” and the occasional free food and stuff. If they’re good enough, they may even end up with a job. Who knows?
That said, I’m up to my eyeballs in old production orders. I need an intern! (Grape-peeling and coffee-making skills not required.)
Jeff Berlin [jberlin[at]kissfm.com], Kiss108, Boston: Back in the days of reel-to-reel, I worked with many talented interns who helped out tremendously. If they displayed the aptitude, I’d make an effort to take them beyond dubs and into higher levels of production proficiency. These interns helped edit hooks for concert spots, assemble beds for club spots, find sound effects, and helped out with mastering. Every one of these interns got jobs in radio.
Today, it’s all computers. It takes longer to learn, and there’s less room for error. By the time I get someone ready to rock on Pro-Tools, they’ve completed their school and they’re gone. I think it’s important to cultivate the next generation of production geniuses, but I’m reluctant to take on interns now because they are a colossal drain on my time, with “nothing in it for me.” In other words, there’s no useful function they can perform other than simply watching and learning. I’m always on the lookout for new blood, but the training process for them is not as “hands on” as it used to be.
One thing I’ve noticed: Production piques the interest of more students than before. Not as many of them want to be deejays now.