Transcript

Summer Internships at The Post

Caroline Hauser and Matt Zapotosky
Former Washington Post Interns
Wednesday, October 8, 2008; 7:00 PM

Do you want the scoop on summer internships in The Post's newsroom? Here's your chance to chat about the program with two Post employees who started out as interns.

Caroline Hauser and Matt Zapotosky both participated in The Washington Post's summer internship program. Hauser, a copy editor, interned on the National and Style desks and was later hired on the Metro copy desk. Hauser is a graduate of Davidson College and the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill.

Zapotosky, a reporter, interned with the Southern Maryland bureau the past two summers and will continue to cover cops and courts there. He is a graduate of Ohio University, where he was editor of the student-run daily paper.

Details about how the 12-week program works and how to apply can be found here. As the November 1 application deadline nears, Hauser and Rucker will be online Wednesday, October 8 at 7:00 p.m. ET to help potential applicants better understand the program, the highly competitive selection process and working in The Post's newsroom.

A transcript follows.

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Matt Zapotosky: Hi everyone. I'm sure you've all read the intro, but I'm Matt Zapotosky, The Post's cops and courts reporter for Southern Maryland. I'm a recent graduate of Ohio University, and I did internships here during the past two summers. I'm happy to answer any and all questions you might have.

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Caroline Hauser: Hi, all, and welcome to this year's installment of the intern chat. I'm Caroline Hauser, and I was a summer intern at The Post in 2006. Matt and I are eager to answer your questions, so let's get to it!

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New York City, N.Y.: Do you have any tips or suggestions for interns regarding the application?

Matt Zapotosky: For reporters -- make sure your clips demonstrate your ability to generate story ideas. Everyone here can cover breaking news. Good enterprise stories will make you stand out.

Caroline Hauser: Remember, you're competing with literally hundreds of other students, so make sure that every inch of your application is perfect. Demonstrate versatility, and try to stand out.

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New York, N.Y.: My question is for Ms. Hauser pertaining to the copy desk.

Ms. Hauser, did you take any copy editing courses during your college career? If so, how did they help you in preparation for your internship as a copy editor? What else did you wish you had learned or practiced more before your internship started?

Caroline Hauser: I went through the Dow Jones Newspaper Fund's two-week editing boot camp before my first summer internship, and I took an introductory copy editing class in graduate school. Editing camps and classes are great for discussing the broader issues of editing, such as how to spot insensitive or potentially libelous language, as well as mastering the finer points of grammar and style. But no matter how rigorous the courses you take, they must be complemented by on-the-job experience, which is where internships come in. No textbook can fully prepare you for handling your first A1 story on deadline.

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Pittsburgh, Pa.: Hello,

My son has recently moved to Washington, D.C. He is extremely talented at drawing. How can he enter the world of news? He also dabbles in writing.

Thank you.

Caroline Hauser: If your son is interested in editorial cartooning, that's one route. Beyond that, The Post, and many other papers, have departments that depend on talented artists and illustrators. Encourage him to apply for art department internships!

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Silver Spring, Md.: Why must you be a college junior, senior or graduate student enrolled in a degree program on November 1, 2008? I would love to apply for The Washington Post internship, but I just graduated from college. I'm considering J-School in the near future, which would qualify me again, but I don't understand why a recent college grad can't apply now.

Caroline Hauser: Senior editors set the application parameters. But if you do return to school, you should consider applying.

Matt Zapotosky: Ditto. The Post typically has a lot of interns in graduate school.

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Westchester, N.Y.: What is a typical day like as an intern at the copy desk?

Caroline Hauser: The first thing to understand is that The Post has a lot of copy desks, rather than the more common universal desk structure: Sports, Style, Metro, Features, Financial, etc. (Be aware of that in case you'd like to express interest for a particular desk in your application.)

Each desk has its own daily procedure, but here's an overview: If everything has run smoothly during the day, there should be a few stories to get started on when you arrive. (Most copy editors start their shifts between 4 and 5 p.m.) Beyond that, as stories come in, your supervisor assigns them, and you work according to the production schedule for your desk. Certain pages go to the press earlier in the night, for example. When everything is done for the first edition of the paper, people generally read stories other people edit -- a process called proofing -- in order to make changes and updates for subsequent editions. If news is breaking, entire stories can be redone between editions, and on election nights, all bets are off. Most copy editors are done by midnight, though.

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washingtonpost.com: The Newsroom Summer Internship Program

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Queens, N.Y.: What are some of the experiences and opportunities you have gained as an intern with The Washington Post that you believe you would not have had interning for another publication?

Matt Zapotosky: The coolest thing about being an intern at the Washington Post is that you are treated like a full-time reporter...for The Washington Post. You get to cover big-time stories and work with some of the best editors in the country. The resources you have access to are simply incredible. Because of The Post's size, some might expect interns here just fetch coffee for the "real reporters." That's not the case.

Caroline Hauser: Lunches with Bob Woodward and Ben Bradlee come to mind. Matt's right: You're working with the best in the business. People are proud to work here, and it shows.

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Fairfax, Va.: How different is it from being an intern helping out on a story and then being hired and doing that as a full-time employee? Do the tables turn?

Caroline Hauser: Washington Post interns are treated like full-time employees, with a few additional perks (more feedback and enrichment sessions, for example) but no difference in expectations. Sure, you're not likely to be handed an A1 story on your first day here, but we expect our interns to come in working at a pretty high level. And that A1 story will come before you know it!

Matt Zapotosky: Interns don't just help out on stories: they pitch and write their own. I just got hired on a month ago. The only change is I get better health insurance.

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New York, N.Y.: This question is for Ms. Hauser: How much time are you given to copy edit an article?

Caroline Hauser: That depends on a lot of factors, including that day's staffing levels across the newsroom, how many stories are going in the paper the next day, and how early reporters and assignment editors are able to move the stories to you. I'm not going to put a number on it, but editors at The Post generally have more time with each story than they would at smaller daily newspapers.

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New York, N.Y. When you both first interned with the Post, how helpful were the staff in helping you adjust? And also, in what ways do you feel working with the staff of The Washington Post has helped you both become better journalists?

Matt Zapotosky: The staff here are incredible. On my first day on the job, another reporter gave me a list of story ideas he didn't think he would be able to get to. Almost all of them landed on the Metro front. Working with Washington Post editors, too, made me a better journalist. They really know what makes a good story, and their questions and edits have made me a better reporter and writer. The people here are really talented and really experienced but also very willing to help out the new kids in town.

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Queens, N.Y.: Can you describe what the internship selection process was like for the both of you? After your clips and information were submitted, how long was it before you heard back from The Post? Were there additional interviews after that?

Matt Zapotosky: If I recall correctly, the deadline for the application was Nov. 1, and I got a call from an editor just before Thanksgiving. No interviews or additional materials were required: they offered me the internship over the phone. I'm not sure if it still works that way, but I wouldn't count on having the opportunity to interview with editors to bolster your chances. Make sure you look good on paper.

Caroline Hauser: You know, it has been a while, and all I remember is jumping up and down in the middle of the campus quad after I got the call.

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Astoria, N.Y.: Hi, I'm an English major/philosophy minor in my first semester of my senior year in college and taking up journalism has come as a late decision for me. I have already joined the student newspaper at my college and have plans to take up journalism as another minor before I graduate. However, I was wondering if you have any suggestions for any other steps I could take in order to build the skills that an internship like The Washington Post is looking for in its applicants? I'd ultimately like to pursue journalism in the entertainment industry if that helps any.

Matt Zapotosky: As a former college newspaper editor, I'm a huge proponent of working there, so you're already on the right track. I'd try to develop your multimedia skills, too, especially shooting and editing video. That seems to be the wave of the future, and all newspapers, not just The Post, are really looking for journalists who can work in multiple mediums.

Caroline Hauser: I was an English major in college, and I also worked on the student newspaper. See if you can get some experience with the local newspaper, too. If you're able, try to negotiate a one-day-a-week internship for a semester. It's all about work experience.

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Fairfield, Conn.: I am a college senior, and have recently switched my major to journalism. I have been writing for the school newspaper, but do not have many clips as of yet. Do you have any advice on how to make an application stand out if someone doesn't have much experience?

Matt Zapotosky: Sell your soul to that college newspaper to get some more clips! To put it bluntly, The Post is not going to hire someone without much work to show.

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New York City, N.Y.: Does The Post help interns find housing?

Caroline Hauser: The Post asks staff members each year whether they have any intern housing opportunities (a room to rent, perhaps, or a house-sitting gig) and forwards those to the incoming class.

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Washington, D.C.: How do you feel about the Internet taking over the newspaper business? Circulation is decreasing with newspapers nationwide and people are getting their news from the Web. You two are young. How do you see your jobs changing in the future?

Caroline Hauser: I see them changing dramatically, but I wouldn't characterize the situation as the Internet taking over the newspaper business. Our mission is to deliver to people the information they need to best live their lives, and our strategy in doing that will adapt as needed as new platforms emerge. The best news organizations will continue to help readers better understand their communities, country and world, and it's an exciting time to be a part of figuring out how to do that.

Matt Zapotosky: Our jobs aren't changing in the future. They're changing now. Reporters are having to write quick hit stories for the Web and update them throughout the day, then shift gears late in the afternoon and try to write something more in-depth for the morning's newspaper. We're also being asked to shoot our own videos. It's an exciting time to be in the business, but also a scary one.

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Philadelphia, Pa.: Could you give any tips or suggestions for the 500-word personal essay? It seems like we're writing the college essay all over again!

Matt Zapotosky: It does seem that way. My only advice would be to try to tell a unique story that editors will remember. My understanding of the application review process is that a bunch of the bosses sit down in a room and go through hundreds of applications, slowly weeding out those that they don't like. A unique essay will help break the monotony of their day, and it might land your application in the stack of finalists.

Caroline Hauser: Spell things correctly.

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Washington, D.C.: How's the pay? Did you earn enough to eat something other than ramen as well as pay the rent, which I understand can be exorbitant in the city?

Caroline Hauser: I think the intern pay for editors this summer was about $935 a week. It's a little lower for reporters. The interns are paid in accordance with the union contract.

That said, this is an expensive town. But you should be able to make do.

Matt Zapotosky: Yikes! Caroline made a bit more than me. I think my weekly pay was something like $840 a week. I was able to have a good meal every now and then, but with rents hovering around $1,200, it's not like you can save money to invest. Maybe that's a blessing in disguise.

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Matt Zapotosky: Thanks for all the great questions, everybody! If you're reading this chat later or if you have any questions you couldn't get answered, feel free to e-mail me at zapotoskym@washpost.com.

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Washington, D.C.: Are you living your dream? Do you feel fortunate? Do you plan to stay there for a long time?

Matt Zapotosky: Definitely living my dream. I'll stay here as long as my swipe card will get me through the door.

Caroline Hauser: It's not bad for a first gig.

Just kidding. I absolutely feel fortunate to be at The Post. My colleagues are of the highest caliber. Our readers are deeply engaged. As the news industry contracts, our company is well positioned for the future. To be a young journalist and work here is like hitting the jackpot.

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Caroline Hauser: Thanks for joining our chat this evening! If you have more questions about the internship program, e-mail me at hauserc@washpost.com. Good luck with your applications!

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