Finding a journalism internship in Toronto can be stressful but it’s also fun! Brainstorming, researching, networking, being resourceful are all part of your toolkit as a budding journalist — whether you’ve grown up in Canada or are an international student. I’ve done four internships in six years of post-secondary schooling, so I know a bit about the process for college and university students, and how to elbow your way into a ridiculously competitive newsroom. Here are some tips to help you jump-start your dreams.
1. Watch, read, listen, absorb local news. So if you’re in the Greater Toronto Area (GTA), this means following news that’s Toronto/GTA-focused, including the suburbs you never, ever visit. This is non-negotiable. No excuses! Time for some tough love: You won’t make it in this biz if you’re not eating, sleeping, drinking the news in 24/7, because everyone else is. Knowing the names of anchors, editors, reporters, major news players, etc. is the least you can do.
2. Be active on Twitter — daily. If you’re not on Twitter, how serious are you, REALLY, about a career in journalism? I once told my first-year students that I go to bed checking police Twitter feeds and it’s the first thing I do when I get up. Sad as hell? Absolutely. True? You bet!
3. And tweet the news. Show potential employers you know what’s up with garbage collection, Queen’s Park protests, shootings, Kawhi, raccoons, school board drama, all things Trudeau, openings, closings, anti-pipeline blockades, etc. No one cares about what Kourtney wore on #KUWTK.
4. Get your driver’s licence ASAP. Even if you don’t have a car or plan on driving anytime soon. Even if you love the subway/cycling/walking/getting dropped off. There are many journo jobs (such as Postmedia’s placements in southwestern Ontario) which require driving, car provided. You just have to show up with a valid licence. Do you really want to lose out on great opportunities because you’re too cool of a city slicker?
5. Bounce. Don’t be afraid to leave Toronto/the GTA or (fill in your major city). Leaving for smaller markets is encouraged simply because you’ll get your hands dirty and return with solid, tangible links for your portfolio. Tap into your resources … for instance, if you have family/friends in Vancouver who will let you live with them for two months, go. Apply to placements out west, down east, in the U.S., small-town Quebec, or wherever you have people who can support you.
6. Think about references now. Ask your profs ASAP if you need a letter of reference (Bell Media requires a personalized one), and send as much info as you can about the placement
two days before well in advance. Only profs who have taught you can write a letter of reference.
7. Skills, skills, skills. Show, don’t tell, and be specific. Why say you “wrote for a weekly newspaper” when you could say you were pitching story ideas weekly, editing 90-second video packages in Premiere, laying out 12 pages using InDesign, etc.
Soft skills are important. Remember to mention you deal with rejection, feedback, teamwork, problem-solving, and constructive criticism daily!
For more tips or advice, tweet me: @kellyroche6
(Cover photo by Kelly Roche)