With today’s consolidation come expanding work loads and longer days. Interns can be a huge asset today, but they can also give you even more to do. This month’s 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. Once again, we had a lot of great responses and will present them all in two parts with the second part in the upcoming October issue.
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.
Jack Steele [jsteele[at]wlwi.com], Cumulus Montgomery: We’ve used interns in the past. Some were helpful and some were just here for the grade. We currently have Rob Wagner who was an intern who was lucky enough to be put on salary. Rob handles all the tags on agency spots and does a lot of dubs. Rob is also helpful on the ol’ sales dept. last minute “I’m sorry, I couldn’t get copy points” spots as another after 5pm voice. I feel that interns are helpful if they are quick learners, sharp with copy writing, and/or user friendly with production room equipment. I have not seen a lot of female interns who displayed this in the past, so there is a great need for talented female production interns. If you wanna use an intern, I recommend a small q & a session about what they want to do or accomplish with the internship. Otherwise, they just get in the way.
Donnie Marion [dmarion[at]urjet.net], 104 KRBE, Houston, TX: Yes, we do use interns and have for many years. Our Internet Program Director (don’t try to look it up in one of the college broadcast textbooks; it’s a Susquehanna thing) who until recently was our APD, searches the ranks of the colleges, universities, and tech schools around here to find qualified candidates. He’s got more hits than misses. Most semesters we have one intern. This summer, we had two really qualified applicants, so we have two really qualified interns. One is about to graduate (August), and the other is tight end for the Rice University Owls football team. We thought, at the very least, we’d get tickets to a football game. Both have been a great help.
As Commercial Production Director it has been my responsibility to find things for them to do. Many of the interns have been technically adept and were able to dub commercials (straight dubs and dubs with tags—using other voices) with minimal training. I was able to find this out when nothing had to be re-dubbed. If a kid can’t get the technical part of the production department, I put them in front of a computer. If they have any computer knowledge, I’ll use them to work on the database of commercials I keep so that we can find old spots more easily. If they don’t have any computer knowledge, I spend time teaching them what to do. And then alWayS, ALwaYS, ALWAYS!!!! the intern types the labels for the commercials and promos. That keeps my butt in the chair making commercials.
Other departments use the interns’ time when I’m (production department) not dominating every minute of their intern day. They’ll help in promotions, filing CDs, answering phones with producers, and merging addresses with flush letters from the APD to folks who weren’t chosen for the internship.
If they are talented and driven to apply the things we’re able to teach them, the most important being “you don’t know anything right now; learn from everyone here,” the radio station may offer jobs to some of them and has in the past—entry level, but it’s a job. From the job, they get something they didn’t get during the internship, money! But I’ll still teach them things. And if we do our jobs really well, they get jobs from other people who will also pay them.
Dennis Coleman [denman[at]cbsaustin .com], CBS Radio, Austin, TX: We used to use interns frequently, but ever since we acquired our fourth station, things have become sort of cramped. Once we complete our newest studio, we’ll begin using interns again. I’ve always tried to employ interns as just that, employees. They go through the same screening process that potential employees go through, and they are expected to treat their time here as a job. Sometimes, they even become employees if they prove themselves reliable. I try not to make them just do all the filing and busy work. They usually start out filing and stuff, but I make them work their way through dubs and tags to hopefully producing a spot or two on their own. I always try to let them leave here with skills they can use, and in some cases, even a demo free of charge. You never know, someday down the road, one of your Production Director friends might need a good assistant.
Darren Marlar [dmarlar[at] bottradio.net], Bott Radio Network, Kansas City, MO: Coincidentally, we are just now preparing to say “so long for now” to our very first intern here. I am a big believer in internships, so much so that I actually created an internship program for my previous station and adapted it for use here. I like training interns because I know that they are not working for my station only for the money (then again, neither do I...welcome to radio!) or just because their mom says they have to have a job. The intern is here because she WANTS to be, and she WANTS to learn about radio. She already has an interest in the field and is willing to do almost anything to get a foot in the door. I’ll take someone like that any day.
Regarding production, it’s a bit inconvenient for an intern to be used. An intern is only at your station for about three months, and the first month you are teaching them just about anything that you can. I see audio production as something that should be earned rather than just distributed. In order for an intern to qualify to receive production, she must first show herself to be outstanding in all other things that she does. So if you see an intern at my station with a production load of any size whatsoever, you’ll know that she’s excellent in every other area that she is involved in.
If an intern does receive production at our station (as our current intern has), it will most likely be dubs. Very little voice work is given due to the fact that our ownership is very particular regarding what type of voice is allowed on the air. However, I try to give the intern whatever I can, including updating and recording weather forecasts. That will give the intern the experience of being in front of a microphone, learning to format what they’re saying in a conversational manner, yet in an area that listeners would be very forgiving. I will also occasionally give my interns a copywriting assignment, and then have them produce it using their own voice and production skills.
Internships in general are an excellent opportunity for both the intern and the station. It gives the intern a learning experience, and the station looks good in the eyes of the community. In fact, I can guarantee you that “Amy the Intern” will be going back to K-State next week saying how great it was to work for us...blabbing our call letters to all of her friends. She’s probably already done so, and maybe some of her classmates have become regular listeners!
Craig Debolt [CraigD933[at]aol.com], WESC/WTPT, Greenville, SC: In today’s age of cut backs and consolidation, I find myself with less and less manpower. Interns have now become a viable means of assistance. There are several Tech schools/colleges with some form of mass commu-nications courses in our area that we work with for internships. I have one intern now who, actually has been bumped up to part-time due to her reliability and work ethic. She was a godsend during some recent vacations and now handles all of our network production and quite a bit dubbing. Interns have been utilized most efficiently through promotions, and I see no reason why this resource shouldn’t be capitalized in the production department.
Brian Wilson [briangw[at]ionet.net], KLIF, Dallas, TX: In the past, I have used interns to varying degrees of success. Often I would spend so much time supervising them and double-checking their work that I would fall behind on my own projects. While interns prove useful in assisting in the mundane daily chores (picking up my dry cleaning, foot massages, etc.), at times they can be more trouble than they’re worth. If an intern sticks around long enough to learn the ropes, and they can work without your supervision, you can just bet someday you’ll lose your job to the little maggot. So my advice is to teach them all they know, never all that YOU know.
Lee Edwards [BHPLee[at]aol.com], WHHY/Y102, Montgomery, AL: I love interns, but I’ve never had any that were nearly as cute as Monica Lewinsky. Yuck! Most of the interns I’ve had in the past were usually put in charge of filing, coffee, lunch, and other menial tasks. Every once in a while, though, you come across one with some real potential. These work their way up to dubs and possibly some tags. My last intern turned into a full-fledged member of the Production Department. You have to eat a lot of apples to find that one worm, but when you do, it’s worth it. When I was first starting out in this business, someone spent some time with me in the production studio, and I’ll never forget that. Now it’s my turn to help out the next generation of production professionals.
Andrew Murdoch [andrew[at]silk. net], Silk FM: Interns are always welcome in my studio. I had the opportunity to watch and learn when I first got into production and have never forgotten how important it was for my career. Since I’ve been at Silk FM, we have had only a few come thru these doors. Some have gotten production jobs; others realized they would rather be on-air or even in TV. Kelowna is a city that doesn’t have a real [college] radio program, therefore we don’t have students in town to draw from. With all that said, what we try to do is take each student as an individual case. Some have more skills than others. The first few days are spent getting to know their abilities. Then they will start dubbing stuff into the on-air system. Then it’s basic production and announcing, and if they eat that up and show creativity and passion, we will turn ‘em loose, basically let them experiment with stuff that will air. It takes a bit of time and nurturing at first, but the pay-off comes for me when I can leave on time and have the intern complete dubs and some late production for me. It also helps me to remember how much fun this job really is.
Tips: interview them before they get accepted. Make sure it’s production they really want and that they are enthusiastic. (I don’t want to spend my time with someone who just needs 2 months internship to graduate and doesn’t give a rat’s ass about becoming a great producer.) Also, actually have stuff for them to do. Don’t let them lose interest either. And having interns is a great way to meet potential hires. I usually get them to help out on something I may not have the time for, i.e. archiving jingles from reel to DAT or searching for promo music on comp CDs or whatever. They seem to enjoy just participating any way you will let them. They are also known to run out for pizza slices when you just can’t leave for lunch! God bless interns.