Wednesday, Oct. 10, Noon ET

Post Summer Internships

Leonard Downie
Executive Editor, Washington Post
Wednesday, October 10, 2007; 12:00 PM

Do you want the scoop on summer internships in The Post's newsroom? Here's your chance to chat about the program with Executive Editor Leonard Downie, who was among the first interns at The Post and is directly involved with selecting the class each year. Details about how the 12-week program works and how to apply can be found here. But as the Nov. 1 application deadline nears, Downie was on hand Wednesday, Oct. 10 at noon ET. to help potential applicants better understand the program, the highly competitive selection process and working in The Post's newsroom.


Alexandria, Va.: What is the Post's policy about hiring interns who have a previous affiliation to partisan political campaigns or ideologically-aligned think tanks, interest groups, or opinion journals? And how many interns tend to hail from politically or ideologically driven backgrounds, and of them, are most of them from left-of-center enterprises like The New Republic or The Nation?

Leonard Downie: We generally don't hire anyone (not counting editorial writers and opinion columnists) who has worked in partisan or ideological jobs. We've hired some people from magazines, including the New Republic, but not The Nation. Mostly, our staff members come from other newspapers all over the country. As for summer interns, they are all university students (juniors, seniors or grad students) who have interned at other newspapers.


D.C.: Do you have to be enrolled in a college should you want to intern? I would really like to get into media, however, I've graduated college already and don't understand how to break into this difficult field.

Leonard Downie: Our intern program is so competitive (hundreds of applicants for less than two dozen internships) that you would need a strong journalistic background in college (though not necessarily a journalism major) and good clips from other newspaper internships. I'd suggest you get into a graduate journalism program like those at American University, Maryland, Columbia, Missouri, Northwestern, etc.


The 703: I notice that there aren't any internships with the travel section. What could I do to become a travel writer?

Leonard Downie: Our Travel section publishes stories from contributors on a free-lance basis. If you think you have the talent for that, contact our travel editor, K. C. Summers.


Woodbridge, Va.: What if the clips you submit are about 1-2 years old?

Leonard Downie: That's okay.


Columbia, Mo.: So far in college, I've held four reporting internships and worked as an editor at a local daily. I'm worried, though, because I've noticed a lot of your past interns have studied in other countries and mastered at least one other language. Those are two things I have yet to accomplish.

Will my lack of diverse experiences hurt my chances of being considered?

Leonard Downie: No. Your experience sounds good. The quality of the work you show in your clips, your personal essay and your letters of recommendation will matter most.


New York City, N.Y.: Is diversity a consideration in The Post's hiring decisions? If so, is diversity limited to race and gender, or does The Post also consider other factors, such as political leanings?

Leonard Downie: We want our staff to be diverse in all ways, but we do ask about political affiliation or ideology because we do not want our reporters to be engaged in politics in any way except to vote, and we want them to approach their work with completely open minds.


Burke, Va. : Do you have any internships in health for a graduate with a master's degree in health services administration?

Leonard Downie: We do seek interns who can cover health issues, but you would have to demonstrate journalistic ability in your application and clips.


Leonard Downie: We are currently accepting and evaluating applications for our summer intern program at The Washington Post. The deadline is November 1 and we expect several hundred applications or more. We are looking for university undergraduate or graduate students who can show interest in and aptitude for newspaper journalism in their studies and previous summer internships.


D.C.: What percentage of applicants do you accept?

Leonard Downie: I would guess it works out to about five to 10 per cent.


Houston: What criteria do you use to evaluate potential interns, and what will I be doing as an intern? Will I be writing stories and editing live copy, or will I be getting David Broder's coffee?

Leonard Downie: Summer interns at The Washington Post do the same work as our full-time reporters, editors, photogrpahers, news artists and page designers. So our primary criteria is evidence from previous internships and student journalism that an intern candidate can do the work.


Maryland: How often does an internships lead to full-time employment or an extended internship at The Post?

Leonard Downie: Many of us working at The Post, including me (summer of 1964)started as summer interns. In recent years, we've hired several interns from each summer's class as reporters, copy editors, etc.


Ohio: Does The Post work with a preferred set of colleges? Can I be an intern if I don't go to an Ivy?

Leonard Downie: We welcome and want applications from students at colleges and universities throughout the country. We give no preference to any kind of institution, including the Ivy League. Many summer interns, again including me (The Ohio State University - go Bucks!), came from state schools.


Tenafly, N.J.: I'd like to apply for an internship with the Post, but I'm slightly concerned the outlet may be sold to Rupert Murdoch. Will it be?

Leonard Downie: No. The Washington Post Co. is a public company whose voting stock is controlled by the Graham family.


Maryland: What do most interns do about housing? And are these internships strictly for the newspaper or for the Web site, also?

Leonard Downie: These internships are at the newspaper. We pay our interns the weekly salary of a beginning reporter, and they find their own housing, although we try to help. Our web site,, has its own, differing intern program.


Montana: Is a strong clip from a student publication acceptable so long as we include it with other clips from recent internships?

Leonard Downie: Absolutely. We like to see a range of work.


Leonard Downie: Thanks for your questions. We're looking for good future journalists and welcome your applications to our summer intern program. Bye.


Editor's Note: moderators retain editorial control over Discussions and choose the most relevant questions for guests and hosts; guests and hosts can decline to answer questions. is not responsible for any content posted by third parties.

© 2007 The Washington Post Company