Today's world of photojournalism and newspaper photography is highly competitive. Any director of photography, photo editor, or human resources manager who has received an abundance of portfolios for a job opening knows this, and so does those photographers who send out dozens of portfolios to land a job. It is not enough for college students to come out of school with just a degree. In order for a young photographer to be hired after school, it is almost a requirement to have at least one internship under the student's belt, if not two or three. Therefore, at about this time of year, photojournalism students in college leave the confines of their dorm rooms, pass up an opportunity to have mom cook for them again and work at the local supermarket, and pack up the ol' used car and hope it makes it thousands of miles to a new community and newspaper for a three-month summer internship.
The benefits of the internships are numerous. Besides the obvious experience of working as a full-time photojournalist for three months and what that can do to a student's portfolio, there are also many experiences outside of the work itself that can prove to be positive. When else can an individual live and work in a distant community for three months at a time, without the commitment of a family or mortgage? A student's ability to travel-at-will puts them in a unique situation to experience new environments and circumstances. An internship can open a students eyes to new experiences in new places that would not have otherwise been afforded to them.
Traditionally, the pay at most internships has been paltry, and sometimes even nonexistent. Certainly twenty-something students probably don't warrant the salary that most staffers are making at a newspaper. Their time there is meant to be mainly education, but nevertheless their work is valuable to the newspaper and they should be compensated appropriately. Most are. Generally, those newspapers who do not pay their interns, but treat them the same as staff members, are looking to turn a profit at the expense of the intern's hard work and dedication and under the guise of 'an educational experience.' Certainly, the experience is educational. But that doesn't negate the fact the intern is performing a valuable task for the newspaper, for which he or she should be compensated.
The expense of this 'experience' to the student may not be outwardly apparent. Many feel that today's kids are growing up too fast, being confronted with situations forcing young people to make decisions usually reserved for adults. Internships, of course, pose no sort of a threat. But summers free of commitments and responsibilities are the last bastions of childhood that college students have. In just a couple years, summer vacations will no longer exist for students when they hit the job market. Their chance to wind-down and rest-up for another school year is being replaced by occupational experience. They are being forced to 'grow up' faster.
The value of each option, either pursuing
an internship or enjoying one of the last summer vacations ever, should
be weighed. As for myself? I am headed to Boise this summer to intern at
the Idaho Statesman.
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