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Intern Insider: Broadcast journalism major reassured 'Nightly' about future of field

If you read the blogs or listen to the pundits, it's easy to come away with the impression that journalism is a dying profession. Certainly, it seems newspapers are forever in financial turmoil.

Drew Smith has immersed himself in his internship with the "NBC Nightly News with Brian Williams."

So every once in a while students training to become professional news gatherers and reporters need a little reassurance. And that’s what senior broadcast journalism major Drew Smith received early during his summer internship with “NBC Nightly News with Brian Williams” in New York.

“The senior producers set up a bunch of question-and-answer sessions for us with legends in this business,” Smith says. “It’s a great opportunity to hear how they got their start and the amazing experiences they’ve had working for the network.

“One correspondent told us not to listen to the cynics who say journalism is dead. He said if we believe we can tell good stories, we will make it in this business.”

Yes, Smith has completed internships with news organizations in the past. Yes, he’s been a transformative leader with Phoenix14News, Elon’s weekly newscast, which has been named the best in the nation three of the last seven years. And yes, he’s been honored by the Broadcast Education Association for his broadcast journalism work.

But to Smith, a student passionate about news and assuredly preparing to enter the field upon his graduation from Elon in May 2011, the reinforcement was welcome.

“I took that advice to heart,” he says.

And the Nightly News, Smith gets to see firsthand how and why journalism continues to thrive. As an intern, he answers the newsroom’s main phones, prints scripts and rundowns and transcribes interviews as they feed in from the field. He works closely with producers and shadows them in the edit rooms. And occasionally, he says, he pounds pavement with digital journalists on local New York shoots.

The entire experience has only helped buoy his interest in broadcast journalism, and because the producers value the interns, he says, they continue to receive tasks that require greater responsibility and effort.

“I love sitting in all the editorial meetings with the best professionals in this business and watching them handle big national stories,” Smith says. “Stories are always changing, new stories develop as the day goes on and this staff handles it so well.”

Smith has transitioned smoothly into his internship with the news institution because of the preparation he received from his classes at Elon and his three years with Phoenix14. He says he’s particularly benefitted from the video shooting and editing training he received in the classroom and in the field, which, he added, is a necessary skill set of journalists at NBC.

“Elon has given me great preparation for my internship here,” Smith says. “Nightly News values people who can write well. Elon and, specifically, my work with student media like Phoenix14News have built a good foundation for me when it comes to writing for television.”

Smith says he wants his summer with the Nightly News to help him improve his storytelling abilities. And one day, he hopes to return to 30 Rockefeller Plaza as a reporter for the program.

“This whole experience has been unreal,” he says. “The writing and production value of this show is top-notch. Working with these pros gives me the real hope about the future of this business. I just love this place. The second I leave the broadcast, I can’t wait to come back the next day.”

Intern Insider will run one to two times a week during the summer and will feature brief stories about some of the interns from the School of Communications or in School of Communications programs.

Colin Donohue,
6/25/2010 4:19 PM