A CNN Intern’s Tips For Placement Success

Sebastian Salek

Graduate trainee Sebastian Salek

CNN intern Sebastian Salek spills the beans on life at the leading broadcaster and shares his top six tips on how to make the most of being on a placement…

Out of sheer terror at the thought of working from home as chief thumb twiddler, I managed to line up a few internships while still at university to tide me over after graduating.

I’m now four placements down the line and each one has been as much like starting at a new school as the one before it: stay out of trouble, find the toilets, and impress the cool kids.

I’m currently waving the star spangled banner at CNN where I’m putting into practice the interning wisdom I’ve picked up along the way, some of which I will share with you now:

Rule Number One: Be prepared

You want to stand out by hitting the ground running, so make sure you’ve done your homework before you arrive. If you’re at a TV or radio station, you might feasibly be sent out to film vox pops, so watch or listen to the network before you arrive. Knowing what the end product is will give you a clearer vision of what you’re trying to achieve.

If you’ll be writing, come up with a few suitable ideas for stories or features. Apart from a bit of transcription, all the work I did during my two weeks at the Independent was as a result of pitching stories.

That way I managed to avoid that awkward lull of nothingness that strikes at the start of most placements. Even if your pitches are all rejected, you’ve shown that you can generate your own ideas, which is sort of important if you want to be a journalist.

Rule Number Two: Make a bucket list

My internship at CNN is three months long, but most others are much shorter. At the start of my placement at Sky News, my editor encouraged me to make a list of the things I wanted to do in the two weeks.

Armed with more direction than One Direction themselves, I was able to plan ahead and get as much packed into the time as possible.

The urgency that the list created meant I did a wider variety of things in a fortnight at Sky News than in the six weeks I spent at Reuters beforehand.

Rule Number Three: Bug people

You may have networked your way into your internship – well done you – but don’t leave those skills at the door. Pick someone – anyone – in the newsroom, introduce yourself, and find out what they do.

They’re hardly going to bite your head off, and chances are you’ll get a bit of work thrown your way. Voila, a new contact is made.

Rule Number Four: Go for drinks

If the LinkedIn request isn’t enough for you, take things to the next level by asking people out for drinks. Everyone loves drinks, and it’s a better setting to have a proper chat and learn more about where you’re working.

Just remember to act like a human being: they’re doing you a favour by giving you their time, so be sure to thank people and try not to make them feel too used when you inevitably pummel them for careers advice.

Rule Number Five: Take notes

No one likes to tell people things twice. Buy a notebook and use it.

Rule Number Six: Follow it up

Be honest, you’re not interning for the hell of it. You want a job, and your manager knows it. So grab your superior for a quick chat before you leave to get a bit of feedback and pop the question about job prospects. If they don’t do the hiring, they’ll refer you to someone who does, hopefully with a good word put in.

If you don’t get a chance to catch your manager in person, drop them an email to say thanks and attach your CV letting them know you’d be interested in future opportunities. You’ve just done the best kind of job interview – one where they can see exactly how you operate in the workplace – so if you’ve impressed don’t let it go to waste.

Do you have any interning tips of your own? Post your comments below or join in the debate on Twitter with us @Journograds. You can also ‘like’ us on Facebook to stay up to date with job postings and reminders of application closing dates

Contacts ‘Invaluable’ In Getting First Job

Artur at CNN

Artur at the CNN headquarters in London

After a three-month internship at CNN, Artur Osinski has secured a role as a freelance production assistant at the company. What advice does he have?

Usually, when you start an internship, you think about one of the following scenarios: either you treat it as means of improving your CV and getting experience without planning on staying on after, or you’re aiming for full-time employment at that particular company.

Regardless of your approach, you should do your absolute best and impress as much as possible. After all, a good reference cannot be overrated.

At the beginning of my internship I was assured by Richard Quest that it was perfectly possible to land a freelance position after the work experience if I did really well.

This wasn’t part of an empty motivational speech that all interns receive – it was a fact that became clear by the many people working in the newsroom who told me they too had started as interns.

I spent half of the time as an intern working for the Connect the World and Quest Means Business shows and the other half with the news desk. I received positive feedback from both, but that still didn’t guarantee anything. A bit of luck is always necessary – you may be a great intern, but if there’s no vacancy going, there isn’t much you can do.

I mentioned in one my of earlier posts that it was incredibly important to make contacts everywhere, whenever possible – the fact I worked in two different parts of the newsroom helped a lot in this respect, as it meant I met many people.

Good contacts proved invaluable and I was introduced to a senior producer who needed a new freelance production assistant – my timing was fortunate and I secured the role after having proven myself as an intern.

By securing the position, my first mission of remaining at CNN post-internship has been accomplished. It is freelance, but that’s a start, especially if you are able to get regular shifts. If you follow this approach then you are likely get rewarded with both higher pay and more responsibility.

At the moment my main duty is operating the auto-cue – which may not sound that glamorous, but it’s a great first step. I also get the opportunity to contribute to writing the presenters’ scripts and producing the images that appear in programmes such as Connect The World.

Hopefully some of the tips I shared in my previous posts will help give you some ideas on how to make the most of your internships so that you can secure paid work at the end. Good luck in your job hunt!

Would you like to intern at CNN? The broadcaster is currently looking for a digital features/special projects intern. If you want to share your own experiences as an intern, send us an email or get in touch via Twitter @Journograds

Out And About As A News Desk Intern


Not all suit and ties – Artur Osinski out collecting GVs for a package on the construction of a new port

What’s it like working at the news desk of an international TV broadcaster? In his latest post, journo grad Artur Osinski talks about the second leg of his internship at CNN…

After my stint with Quest Means Business and Connect the World, I am now well and truly immersed in the operations of the busy CNN news desk.

The day starts with an editorial meeting at 9am, where representatives of every department and programme gather to discuss the news agenda.

During this we connect with our different bureaus via a video conference call. This is a fantastic experience where you get to see journalists from all around the world (Hong Kong, Dubai, Atlanta, Abu Dhabi and Johannesburg) sharing stories and shaping CNN International’s coverage of news.

My duties throughout the day are in many aspects similar to the ones I had in the programmes part of my internship, such as research, transcribing and contacting people for interviews. I do, however, get the opportunity to go out more often for shoots as well.

Sometimes I accompany reporters, whereas other times I am out there by myself with the cameraman. In these scenarios my role is to help the channel in any capacity possible. This means being the link between the outside world and the news desk – whether this is making sure it’s clear what shots we need, liaising with any PR officials on the spot and getting vox pops.

After we come back from a shoot, I’m then responsible for making sure the footage is ingested into the system. As always in television, there is a constant fight with deadlines to make sure all the material is in on time to get to air.

The job can be very varied at times. I’ve covered press conferences for political stories (including one held by the Foreign Secretary William Hague and U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry), I’ve been to the headquarters of Eidos in London (creators of the famous Lara Croft game Tomb Raider) and to the building site of a new deep-sea port (see picture above).

One morning I watched Becky Anderson interviewing former Prime Minister Gordon Brown and the father of Malala Yousafzai, while in the evening I accompanied her on live stand-ups outside the O2 Arena during a Justin Bieber concert.

One of the personal highlights of my time at the news desk came almost at the beginning, when a story broke of a diamond heist at the Brussels airport. No-one could reach the airport’s spokesman, but through perseverance I managed to get to him through his office and was able to confirm various crucial facts.

My information was used on the CNN wires and an hour later the network interviewed the spokesman live on air. After that the information I’d gathered was used in an article for CNN’s website, which you can read here.

Perhaps the ultimate pat on the back was the e-mail I received from the supervising editor saying I’d done a good job.

Would you like to intern at CNN? The broadcaster is currently looking for a digital features/special projects intern. If you want to share your own experiences as an intern, send us an email or get in touch via Twitter @Journograds

Life At CNN – What To Expect As An Intern


Artur Osinski at the Foreign Office ahead of a press conference

In his latest update for journograds, graduate Artur Osinski answers some questions about the day-to-day duties of a CNN intern …

What internships does CNN have on offer, and where is yours based?

CNN International regularly offers London-based internships in four different departments. They’re paid and last for three months (four in the case of sports).

I work across two programmes: Quest Means Business and Connect the World. This involves shifts from 12-8pm, or 2-10pm respectively. After six weeks on this attachment I switch with the news desk intern.

How did you prepare for the internship?

Fortunately CNN organises a handover day a few days before the start of your internship, which is really helpful.

This includes a tour from the outgoing intern, who shows you the newsroom, introduces you to people, fills you in on your tasks and (hopefully) shares a tip or two – like the fact Richard Quest likes a tall, one-shot, skinny latte at 4.15pm (It’s up to you what you’ll do with this knowledge – but it’s worth having it!)

On my handover day, Richard told me that CNN hired only the best, that I’d take from it as much as I’d put in and that a lot of people working there had started as interns – very motivating words and, from what I found out from asking around, it’s true.

What does your role involve?

It all starts with the 12:30 meeting (or 14:00 if you’re on the Connect The World shift). In the meeting we discuss the day’s stories and what we’ll be focusing on in the programme.

It’s a good opportunity to pitch stories – it’s always appreciated when you provide something useful and it’s rewarding if your idea ends up on air.

In terms of duties, my main role is research – fact-finding, making phone-calls and emailing people.

Sometimes Richard has specific needs, like notes on South Korea before his trip there (he flies A LOT).

Quest Means Business also involves the fun task of writing the “Currency Conundrums.” These are daily questions about a currency which present some interesting, relatively unknown facts.

It’s great because what you write goes on air and it also adds a light, fun moment to the programme.

I’m also responsible for the official Quest Means Business Twitter account, so many @questCNN tweets are written by me (although the tweets you’ll see from @richardquest are most certainly his!)

What tips would you have for others about to start the scheme?

My advice would be to always do whatever you are asked to do, and do it as quickly as possible. Avoid mistakes, obviously – but if you make them, make sure you learn from them. And don’t complain.

When others see that you deal with the small but vital tasks, they’ll start giving you more responsibility. I went out a couple of times with a cameraman to shoot some vox pops and I also did an interview via Skype for Connect The World. All of that made it to air.

There are times when there isn’t as much to do and you have to deal with that. Always ask whether you can help anyone with anything and be ready that suddenly you may be packed with tasks.

Would you like to intern at CNN? The broadcaster is currently looking for a digital features/special projects intern. If you want to share your own experiences as an intern, send us an email or get in touch via Twitter @Journograds

CNN Intern: Passion Is ‘Most Important’

Journo grad Artur Osinksi in the Quest Means Business studio at CNN

Artur Osinski at CNN’s ‘Quest Means Business’ studio

Artur Osinski is a recent journalism MA graduate who is interning at CNN International. He reveals the qualities that helped him land his place there…

As a journo grad, it’s easy to wonder what would make potential employers choose you over anyone else out of hundreds or thousands of candidates.

Is it good education at a respected university? Is it having a couple of work experience placements under the belt? Is it good connections?

I’ve come to learn it’s a combination of all these things – as well as a few others which stand out.

Surprisingly maybe, I’d say that a good degree isn’t a particular advantage – but not having one is definitely a disadvantage. That’s the harsh reality.

Nowadays there are hundreds of fresh journalism graduates every year – it doesn’t make you special. But try not having a degree and you’re automatically behind that entire crowd that does.

It’s also impossible to stress the importance of work experience. No course, no matter how good it is, will teach you as much as a good placement in a newsroom.

Throughout my university years I did a month at the leading Polish news channel TVN24. I also did two weeks working on a prime-time news bulletin in the Polish TV channel Polsat, as well as a month and then a couple of loose shifts for the BBC in the UK.

I didn’t stick exclusively to television either (even though that’s what I want to do). I wanted to gain all-round experience, so I worked for a week in a regional newspaper in Buckinghamshire, wrote some articles for the university newspaper and for a video games website.

Relevant work experience is more important than education – I always put it on top of my CV. It shows that you’re active and you really want to be a journalist.

Networking is another thing which is very valuable, and it is important to make contacts and build connections whenever you can. I met a BBC editor at a conference for TV journalist-wannabes, approached him, showed him my work (which he fortunately liked) and maintained regular contact before I could work there – a whole year and a half later.

It pays to stay positive and seize opportunities when you see them. You should also cherish your contacts – you never know when they might be useful.

Perhaps the most important factor in getting work, however, is passion. Don’t bother with journalism if you’re not seriously into it. The profession is so popular and so filled with graduates who are desperate to become journalists that if you’re lukewarm about it, it’s just not worth wasting your time.

If watching television and reading newspapers regularly sounds tedious, find a different career path. It’s as simple as that. You should be reading (books as well!), watching, learning, creating contacts, sustaining them. It may sound like a 24-hour job, but trust me – it doesn’t feel like work if you truly enjoy it.

As for CNN, I got an e-mail from City University while I was studying there advertising the fact that the broadcaster was recruiting for three-month internships at four different departments.

The usual followed: sending a CV, cover letter, application form (it wasn’t very long, but involved showing my editorial judgment on some of the biggest news stories of 2012) and, of course, keeping my fingers crossed.

A phone-call followed, arranging a phone interview at a later date. I was as jubilant as I was stressed; it was a glimpse of hope after a couple of months of fruitlessly applying for vacancies.

The final conversation was with none other than Richard Quest himself. It was tough, robust, no-nonsense and surprisingly short. News was the most important bit, and fortunately I was well prepared. The answer came within hours and, to my joy, it was a positive one.

Would you like to intern at CNN? The broadcaster is currently looking for a digital features/special projects intern. If you want to share your own experiences as an intern, send us an email or get in touch via Twitter @Journograds

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