Q. Is there any benefit to doing an internship at a newspaper as a reporter as opposed to an internship with a PR firm? What are the pros and cons of each and which one makes you more appealing as a new PR job candidate in today’s market? –SS
A. Full disclosure: My first two internships were in newsrooms–radio and newspaper. But times have changed, so my response requires a bit of fence straddling.
Without a doubt, a newsroom (especially newspaper) internship will serve you well since it will hone your writing skills. Many of the best PR professionals from the Boomer generation started out as newspaper interns and reporters. (See Gary Sheffer’s Career Capsule).
PR internships focus less on writing and more on research and tactical skills. Although I used to consistently lean towards recommending media internships, we now must consider the hard facts that newsroom jobs are steadily declining, thus reducing potential media jobs post internship. In addition, moving from a media internship to a PR agency is harder than in the past. However, content development is growing rapidly and others feel the future of journalism isn’t as bleak as it appears.
I generally suggest going with whichever internship is with he bigger “brand name”. If you have a chance to work for a major daily newspaper or network with a growing online revenue stream, go for it. But if the choice is between a local weekly and a highly regarded agency, I’d go for the agency. This assumes your college major was public relations, not journalism. A journalism major with no relevant PR experience won’t catch the eye of agency recruiters, and you’ll get little credit for the newsroom experience since the agency knows it will need to train you in the PR skills required for the job. So, if your career goal is to work for an agency, you better pursue an agency internship.