This is part of a series where we ask Grady College students to describe their summer internship experience.
Julianna Russ is a fourth-year journalism student working with the CNN Documentary Unit as part of the Warner Bros Discovery Internship Program. Read on as she provides insight into what this internship looks like.
I am an intern with the CNN documentary unit in Atlanta which is part of the Warner Bros. Discovery internship program! We produce CNN’s series, “The Whole Story with Anderson Cooper,” which airs every Sunday at 8 p.m. ET. In this role, I’ve compiled research about the subjects of our documentaries, cleaned up interview transcripts, searched for archival footage, logged new footage and more. Overall, I provide support for the documentary unit staff wherever necessary.
What does the structure of your internship look like?
My internship is hybrid, 40 hours per week. I come into the office Tuesday through Thursday, and I work from home on Mondays and Fridays.
What’s the biggest challenge you’ve faced?
The biggest challenge has been putting myself out there! This internship is full of learning opportunities, but I have to be very proactive. Asking for work and making it clear that I am available to assist on projects has been key so far!
What has been your favorite part about your internship so far? Tell us a story if you have one!
When there is a breaking story, we only have two or three days’ notice to produce a full-length episode about it. It is all hands on deck through the weekend, and the whole team drops everything to get it out on time. This typically only happens a few times per year, but in the first month of my internship, it has already happened twice. These long weekends have been my favorite part of the internship because they are high energy, I am assigned a lot of work, and I get to be part of the production process from start to finish. That isn’t the case with most of our long-form projects because they are in production for months at a time.
How have the classes you’ve taken at Grady prepared you for this internship?
My Grady classes have helped me feel comfortable in a professional environment. This is my first time working in an office setting, but I don’t feel intimidated. Instead, the professional etiquette I’ve learned so far at Grady has helped me feel confident moving through the workplace. Additionally, I rely on the discipline of verification to constantly guide me as I conduct research and make decisions, no matter how small. This is a core tenet that my journalism classes have drilled into me and I’m very grateful.
What’s your advice to other students looking for a similar opportunity?
The best thing you can do is put yourself out there. Don’t limit yourself; if you think something you are applying to is a long shot, apply anyway. Make a company say no to you, don’t say no to yourself first! You will never get your dream job if you don’t give yourself a chance. Also, make sure that you are truly interested in the position you’re applying for. Authenticity goes a long way during the interview stage!
How will this role guide your future career path?
This role has set a new standard for me in terms of what I will look for in future jobs. I’m walking away with a new understanding of the type of work environment I thrive in, the type of coworkers I want to be surrounded by, and the type of culture that will lead me to be the best storyteller possible. This internship showed me that despite what many people say, balancing your personal and professional life as a journalist is not only possible, but it is also necessary. I’m more excited than ever to enter the field and start my professional journey.
What’s your career goal?
While my goals are always fluctuating, I know that I want to plant myself in the realm of visual storytelling. I could see myself working as a producer in a unit much like this one, or as a director in a broadcast control room. I know I like long-form production and live event production, but I still need to explore broadcast news. With such a varied range of interests, I’m hopeful that I will eventually land somewhere that I love. My time at Grady so far has been instrumental in helping me figure out where I might fit best in the media world!
What lessons will you take back with you to the classroom in the fall?
The growth that I’ve experienced during this internship is already much greater than I ever expected. I think the main lesson I’ll take back to the classroom with me is that building a transferrable skillset is the most important way to stand out in this field. I’m going to focus on developing my individual skills to supplement my work in the classroom going forward.
How has this role helped you discover what you are passionate about?
I have always had an interest in documentary filmmaking, and this internship has shown me that there is an opportunity to do this type of work professionally. There are so many different paths in the media industry, and sometimes my interests have felt too niche to be a realistic career. In this case, I was able to find a workplace where the stories I’m most interested in telling are prioritized. It’s a really exciting discovery.
If you could give your younger self one piece of advice, what would it be?
Don’t let rejection get to you. When I started applying to internships, I was just looking for an opportunity to tell stories. I got rejected from most places (including from an internship at my hometown newspaper, which was especially painful). I started to feel like I might not find any place to land for the summer. When I found this position with the CNN documentary unit posted online, it seemed too good to be true. I applied without even expecting to get an interview. I was shocked when my dream internship ended up being the one that worked out. The right opportunities will come to you, and previous disappointment will make sense eventually. Don’t doubt yourself and don’t be discouraged along the way!