This is part of a series where we asked Grady College students to describe their internship experiences during the summer. To see pictures of our Grady students interning, please see our #GradyInternDiaries social media collection.
Other Grady Intern Diary interviews can be viewed here: Nicole Chrzanowski | Jamari Jordan | Mariya Lewter | Kelsey Ann Williams | Kalyn Wilson
Name: Sydney Devine
Title of Internship: News Team and Content Intern
Location: Atlanta, Georgia
• Describe a typical workday in your internship.
Every morning started with the News Team’s 9 a.m. meeting. It was probably the most entertaining meeting of the day. We’d go through and look at Google and Yahoo trends and health news. We’d also go over what was going to be published for the day from our team, as well as what we would be publishing from Health Day—one of our partners that we pick up news stories from.
I’d usually have a story for the week that I’d be assigned to work on. That required a lot of extra research—finding what I needed to know about the topic and tracking down some appropriate experts for the topic. Once I found experts, I usually started by emailing them, we’d pick a time for a phone interview, then I would type up some questions, etc. to prepare for the interview.
It’d usually take a couple of weeks to complete a story and get it published. When I wasn’t working on that, I also did little jobs for the Audience Engagement or Content team, as well as the Social Media and Newsletters team. I programed channels in their OAS system weekly—programing three channels a week. Channels are the different sections or topics available on WebMD.com, such as “allergies or cancer, etc.”
Social Media had weekly assignments for me where I would make “teases” for their “#WhatsItWednesday” – so I’d work on that each week, as well. #WhatsItWednesday is posted every Wednesday on Facebook (and sometimes Twitter), and it’s just a fun riddle or question about a disease or illness—sometimes symptoms, etc. and the Facebook users were expected to comment and guess what it is. Then we tell them the answer an hour later. Teases are the actual post that consumers see, so I’d make up the question for Facebook users and Twitter users to guess, and then I’d make another post that would be put up about an hour later that revealed the answer to the question. I’d also pick out a quiz or slideshow to accompany the answer.
I completed a total of five stories while I was working there, and it was an eight-week program, so that kept me pretty busy.
When I didn’t have a story to work on, I usually had a research project to do or some other news type assignment to work on.
My day was usually filled with meetings—whether it’d be a brainstorming meeting or participating in a live blog. Needless to say, they kept me pretty busy.
• What was the biggest challenge you faced at your internship?
The biggest challenge was around the second week when I got assigned my first story. We were busy working on a special report on food additives, and I got assigned to write one of the special report stories—on food adulteration. Rather than walk me step-by-step about what WebMD typically does when completing a news story, my editor just kind of (nicely) threw me out there. I had to use the skills I’d learned in classes to figure out what I needed to do. They didn’t really “baby” me or treat me like an intern, which I really l liked, but it was definitely more challenging. They expected me to kind of figure it out for myself. So when I was assigned that first story, I just got on my computer and did the only thing I knew to do. I started researching the topic—since I didn’t know what food adulteration really was—and by looking at past stories and articles, I got a good idea about the topic. During my research, I ran into a lot of amazing researchers who look at particular types of food that are adulterated—fish, fruit, olive oil, etc.—and I got in touch with each one for an interview about their research and the topic as a whole. Sometime I’d hit a dead end, but most of the time they were more than willing to do an interview. They just wanted to raise awareness because it’s a scary thing. I really learned by just doing rather than just being showed.
• What was the most influential experience or most important skill you learned at your internship?
The most important skill I learned was probably just figuring out how things work in a newsroom. I couldn’t have just figured it out by being told it—working in the environment and with these people really gave me a true taste for the experience. Now I feel as though I’m much more prepared for my future job. I know how things work day-to-day, what the meetings are like, how people interact, etc. It’s not a skill you can just spend one day doing and figure out. Being there everyday 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. and being treated like a true employee did it for me. Overall, I feel much more prepared for the real world after working there.
• What advice would you give to a student looking for an internship?
Your resumé means a lot. I know that you probably already know that. But if it hadn’t of been for my résumé, I might not have gotten the job. Putting yourself out there and building up those connections and skills truly helps. Also, have an awesome mentor to push you to success, it takes you one step further—I have Pat Thomas to thank for that. She MAKES us strive for greatness, and she doesn’t give it to you on a silver platter. You have to work for it. So I think working hard and putting yourself out there is key. One piece of feedback I got back from my managers at WebMD was that I wasn’t afraid to tackle something. If I had a question, I wasn’t shy about asking it. If someone needed help with something, I wasn’t shy about volunteering. Don’t hold back.
• What part of your Grady education did you find most valuable during your internship?
Taking those skills I learned in my journalism classes and using them was probably most valuable to me. If I hadn’t already known how to research a topic and interview someone, I wouldn’t have been able to get through that first challenging assignment—or any. Calling up an expert, Ph.D. or M.D., and asking them questions about their research or work can be really intimidating. I got a chance to interview head researchers at United States Pharmacopeia and Grocery Manufacturers Association—both really big companies involved in the food industry. It was intimidating, but if I didn’t have those learned skills, it would’ve been a lot scarier.
September 9, 2015