As the summer internship season kicks off, the College media team has gathered reflections from a few students in each UChicago Careers In... (UCI) program who held Jeff Metcalf internships this past summer. Here is what they had to say about their experiences.
Dake Kang, Class of 2015Major: HistoryPrimary UCI program: JournalismName of internship: CNN Newsroom InternInternship location: Atlanta, GA
Q: What attracted you to the Metcalf internship that you have been doing this summer?
A: I've always had an interest in journalism as kind of a vague, nebulous idea. I enjoy a fast-paced, changing environment; I'm very interested in social issues, politics, and current events; and I enjoy writing and doing research—so I figured that journalism might be a good fit. But I've never really delved into the field as much as I'd like—my background is much more rooted in academia, research, education, and policy, and that's the kind of internship I thought I was going to be doing. I applied for the CNN internship because of this desire to learn more about journalism, as a "Why not?" kind of application. With my lack of experience in broadcast journalism, I thought there was little to no chance of my landing any kind of internship at Turner. Then I got the call.
Q: How does your major or other coursework at UChicago relate to the kind of work that you are doing for your Metcalf?
A: In my opinion, the most important qualities to succeed as an intern at CNN are persistence, curiosity, initiative, and worldliness. UChicago gave me all that in spades. The courses I've taken here—to trot out a tired yet true cliché—have broadened my perspectives and opened my mind to the vast intellectual depth of the huge variety of subjects out there. It's lent me a certain inquisitiveness and curiosity about things that have served me well so far. UChicago's famed academic rigor has definitely prepared me for the work [at CNN] as well, pushing me to be persistent in tackling projects and assignments and pursuing new opportunities. Finally, my specific major, History with a specialization in modernization in China, the Middle East, and India, has undoubtedly given me foundational knowledge that's indispensable when dealing with current events.
The only course I've taken at UChicago that gave me any kind of technical knowledge or training for this internship is the introductory Art course on film. I got some experience editing footage, which is something I do here every day.
Q: What has been the most challenging aspect of your Metcalf, and how have you dealt with or overcome that challenge?
A: The challenge was to find my place at CNN. I'm happy to say that things worked out well; at this point in my internship, I've been really immersed in most aspects of show production, and I've been able to do a lot of substantive, interesting, meaningful work that actually has an impact on what's aired. On top of that, I've had incredible opportunities to explore other departments, see what they do, and even partake in similarly substantive work there as well. As I mentioned before, this is a very self-directed internship; the more you ask, the more you explore, the more you get out of it. I was able to do so by maintaining good relations with my coworkers—being respectful of them and their time, asking questions but not being intrusive, and asking them to teach me how to do small tasks.
Photo courtesy of Dake Kang, Class of 2015
Q: What is the most interesting, memorable, or unique experience/assignment you have had while working in the capacity of your Metcalf?
A: It's very hard to pick just one. Even day-to-day experiences have been incredibly interesting—the CNN Center is a place where people will pay money to tour, so imagine that being your workplace. Walking through the newsroom, being in the chaos of the control room, writing scripts and cutting footage that airs on national television, making accidental cameo appearances on camera, being in the studio with anchors and taking pictures with them—every day's an experience! I can proudly say my third Twitter follower ever was Brooke Baldwin, the anchor of my team—she has over 90,000 followers, and she followed me! (She's also an all-around fantastic person.)
But out of all my assignments, two are particularly memorable. The first was when the producers on my team floated the idea of having a youth panel on the Zimmerman trial. They thought it'd be interesting to have people Trayvon Martin's age speak about their perspective on race, but they didn't know anyone they could put on air at the time. After the morning meeting, I talked to my supervisor and told him that as a college student, I'd be able to find some people interested in talking. He gave me the green light, so I pre-interviewed seven people that night, looking for articulate youth from diverse backgrounds willing to go on national television to share their ideas. Unfortunately, the next day, my supervisor said it wouldn't air, which was disappointing. But that wasn't the end of the story—that weekend, I shadowed the weekend show team, and there I overheard the producers talking about how they wished they could have a youth panel themselves! Naturally, I interjected and told them I already found half a dozen potential candidates. Next thing I knew, the guests I personally found were live on national television! One of them was in Atlanta, so I got to give him a personal tour of the headquarters and share in his excitement as he shared his experiences with the nation.
The second was when I got a chance to go out on a field shoot. For the longest time, I had wanted to go out in the field—as a newsroom intern, you don't normally get the chance to go out, and the person who hired me straight-up told me that there was little chance I'd be able to go. But I was determined. One day, another intern came to shadow me. She told me she was going to observe a satellite truck later that day, so I followed her and met the head of the Atlanta Bureau, who manages all the field producers and reporters. Later that week I met with him and got to know him a little better. I told him it was one of my dreams to be able to go out into the field. Lo and behold, two weeks later, out of the blue I got a call asking me if I wanted to pack my bags and leave in 10 minutes to interview travelers at the airport about the Middle East embassy closings. The next morning, I got to watch my interviews air on CNN.
On top of that, the photojournalist invited me back to another field shoot, so I went on another and watched how cameras, lights, sets, and satellites work in practice. I'll never forget the conversations I had with him. He was in Tiananmen [Square] in 1989, and was one of the photojournalists who took footage of the famous "tank man." He was in the Philippines during the People Power Revolution. He had traveled with Kofi Annan personally. He caught footage of both Gulf Wars. He was in Tokyo in the heady days of the 1980s. I was in complete awe.
Q: What is the most important lesson you have learned or the most rewarding experience you have had?
A: At the beginning of my internship, my supervisor sat me down and told me, "Dake, here's my advice to you. Be hungry."
Be hungry, and do it well.
UChicago Careers in Journalism, Arts, and Media (UCIJAM), a program of Career Advancement, "provides essential professional development opportunities to help students launch successful careers in these fields." To that end, UCIJAM offers Jeff Metcalf internships, which are paid, substantive internships exclusively for UChicago undergraduates. For more information, visit the Metcalf Internship Program website.
Metcalf Internships are available to College students throughout the academic year, and especially during the summer internship season. To learn more about currently posted Metcalf Internships, log into your Chicago Career Connection account to search for opportunities, and to make an appointment with a Career Advancement adviser.