How do you get a toe in television?
If you're a college student, you can apply for internships. Many local stations have them, but you won't get paid -- interns earn only college credit, and they should be at least juniors. Some stations have a few paid positions for trainees.
Competition even for the unpaid positions can be formidable: WTTG personnel director Anne Connolly said this year she got 350 calls for the 20 spaces she had to fill each semester (fall, spring, summer) in Five's news and sports department, promotions, sales research, community affairs and programming.
The students -- juniors or seniors at four-year colleges or second-year students at community colleges -- work between 15 and 20 hours a week, she said.
Another way is to apply for trainee programs. The pay is minimal and the work often is only part-time, but Connolly said as many as 300 have applied for WTTG's 10 trainee spots, five beginning in July and five in January. Connolly interviews in April, in person, for the trainee positions, which pay $4 an hour for a 20-hour work-week.
Connolly (244-5151) recommends that trainees go to a town smaller than Washington to get first-job experience, but admits that as many as 19 of Channel 5's staffers started out as trainees. A former high school teacher, she has handled personnel matters for Five for 3 1/2 years and said she enjoys the interns and trainees because "they bring such youth and vitality to the station."
WRC has about 25 college interns each semester, mainly in news, sports, programming, public relations and sales. Evelyn Sellers (885-4000) has managed the internship programs since 1973. Sellers, who formerly worked in affirmative action programs for NBC, contacts colleges and universities and interviews applicants. One was WRC-TV news anchor Pat Lawson, who worked as an intern while she was a Howard University student, found a TV job in Baltimore, then returned to WRC.
Calling the program she runs "the model for others," Sellers says she looks for students attending a college or university nearby or students home from other colleges in the summer. Those students work part-time at Channel 4 (and a few at NBC and WKYS) for credit, not pay.
But two job programs run by the District do offer pay for high school students, she said. One is Mayor Barry's Summer Jobs for Youth Program (full-time jobs for six weeks) and the other offers part-time jobs for District high schoolers 20 hours a week during the school year. "We work very closely with the mayor's Office for Youth Employment," said Sellers, "and any program that the mayor has that we can work with."
WJLA also offers unpaid internships for college students for credit working with the station's consumer unit, "Seven on Your Side." The positions last 12 to 15 weeks. This summer, coordinator Therman Coles has about 22 students who work full time; out-of-staters stayed in Georgetown University dormitories for the summer. During the school year, he hires 17 students who work half-time. Contact Coles at 364-7764.
WJLA also has a second program for full-time jobs that last six months at $4 an hour. The trainees are provided practical experience, do a group project, and attend seminars to learn about the station's other departments. Applicants must be at least a junior in college or have completed two years of college, must fill out an application that includes essay questions, and must provide a resume and college transcripts. Application deadline is Oct. 15 for jobs beginning in January and continuing to June; deadline is April 15 for jobs beginning in July and continuing to December 1988. Personnel director Lou Segner (885-7910) manages the trainee programs and works with the District Summer Jobs for Youth Program applicants.
Channel 7 also offers a few entry-level positions that last for two years only and are meant to be springboards to permanent jobs either at WJLA or elsewhere. "Even for the entry-level jobs you really need some experience," admitted Segner, who has been at WJLA for eight years. Before that, Segner was a "Romper Room" teacher on stations in Lowell, Mass., and Atlanta.
At WUSA, Anne Gemunder (364-3729) will interview college juniors, seniors or graduate students in November for 35 intern positions during the spring. (She interviewed students in April for a like number of summer and fall positions.) Students must bring letters from their colleges attesting to their status. Nine also offers one-year traineeships at minimal pay (about $6 an hour) in programming and news and a six-to-nine-month position in engineering. These are affirmative action programs for women and ethnic minorities, said personnel manager Louise Abernathy (364-3780). (The news and programming spots for the 1987-88 year were filled through interviews in June.) Abernathy said that WTTG news anchor James Adams, among others, came through Channel Nine's trainee program. WUSA's parent corporation, Gannett, also helps to defray the cost of paid trainee programs run during the summer.
At WHMM (Channel 32 at Howard University), Jim Brown (636-5600) is coordinator for training. Howard University students get first priority, even if they are not majoring in broadcast journalism, followed by students from other schools and volunteers. Howard students can qualify for a stipend.
Monday is the deadline to apply for trainee positions for fall semester in research and development, production, programming (including traffic), operations, engineering, administration and creative services (graphics art, public relations and photography). Trainees produce a weekly half-hour magazine-format show called "Spotlight" scheduled for Sundays in the fall.
Students in technical areas such as engineering must be enrolled in a certification class. WHMM's staff of 85 to 90 professionals help teach about 40 trainees each semester. In the summer, positions not filled by students are open to programs such as Upward Bound, Volunteer Clearinghouse and the District Summer Jobs for Youth Program, which fund their salaries for full-time work.
At WETA, personnel coordinator Gwen Price said that during the summer Channel 26 has spots for college juniors or seniors who work for credit or college graduates who want to gain work experience. They are paid a stipend of $25 a week for transportation costs, she said, and work full-time from June through August. "Based on department needs, we try to get some interns during the school year to fill those needs," she added. Patty Eckels coordinates the internships. The PBS station has no paid trainees, but uses volunteers. Deanna Shoob (998-2697) runs that program.
At WDCA, Karen Stokes (654-2600) runs the Channel 20 internship program for college credit. Any student can apply, but Stokes says, "We give preference to juniors and seniors who have chosen a major in broadcast journalism." Stokes said the station hires "four or five interns in the summer and in the fall and spring semesters. We hope they work a minimum of 15 hours a week so they can find out what's going on."
Sister stations WNVC and WNVT (Channels 53 and 56) use a lot of volunteers, said staffer Karen Collyar (698-9682), and offer opportunities for both college and high school interns. Laura Press coordinates Channel 56's high school internship program with Fairfax County Public Schools. Students get school credit for producing a half-hour program, including running the cameras and doing the interviews. College interns may even get on-camera experience, said Collyar, if they work on Channel 56's news program "On the Hill." Apply to news coordinator Lynn Kessler. Interns in production areas apply to Matt Miller. Persons who want to volunteer can call Mike Baker, and those interested in working with educational television, which provides telecasts to classrooms, should apply to Channel 53. The stations operate from joint headquarters on Lee Highway in Falls Church.
WFTY (Channel 50) has openings for college interns in various departments. Interns must be at least junior status and preferably broadcast journalism majors. They work a minimum of six hours three days a week and receive college credit. Contact department heads at 230-1550.
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