Doing an internship at a bustling local television news station in a large metropolitan market can shock some students. They have to love the fast pace and the quick deadlines to be successful. What's the old saying? Stand to the right, walk to the left.
Senior broadcast journalism major Randy Gyllenhaal abides by that credo, as he runs—not walks—on the left at his internship with WTTG Fox 5 in Washington, D.C. And he got used to the speed working for Phoenix14News.
“Working in student media has more than prepared me for a real world internship,” Gyllenhaal says. “At Elon, we do the same things they do at the same breakneck speed. So this wasn’t much of a wakeup call for me as a reaffirmation of what I’ll be getting myself into.”
And why wouldn’t it be reaffirming? Gyllenhaal is already a celebrated student journalist. He was recently named the best collegiate television journalist in the nation by the Hearst Foundation at a ceremony in San Francisco. As a finalist in the competition, he was given two days to conceive, shoot and edit a TV news story of up to two and a half minutes in length on an economic topic of his choice in the San Francisco area.
It was a tight deadline, but Gyllenhaal produced a winning piece that focused on the failing fishing industry in the Bay Area. His time was limited, but his final piece was not. So he had no trouble helping WTTG reporters and photographers cover the tragic shooting at the Holocaust museum June 10.
“Covering a bit national story like the Holocaust shooting really throws a reality check at you,” he says. “We were right here alongside national media covering a story that the whole country was watching. It was a very sad story to cover—something I’ll have to get used to in the future.
“The newsroom was buzzing from the minute I got in until the minute I left.”
Gyllenhaal says his summer at WTTG has been a different experience for him because he’s never worked with a local news station in the past, only with a network (ABC) and a weekly newscast (Phoenix14).
“I’ve never interned in local news before, so it has been a huge learning experience,” he says. “It’s a fast paced newsroom, with so much going on. It’s great to see this before I hit the real world.”
Because of the newsroom hubbub, Gyllenhaal says his day-to-day tasks are anything but routine. Some days he answers phones at the assignment desk, plans stories and makes beat calls. Other days he’s in the field with reporters. He’s even gotten to write and edit his own stories already, including one about the local Iranian presidential election protests in Washington, D.C. He shot a stand up and finished the piece before the 11 p.m. deadline.
“It’s a very unstructured internship, but it makes you work harder to get noticed and get to do things,” Gyllenhaal says. “It’s easy to get looked over and forgotten. Every day I go in not knowing what I’m going to do. There is no routine, rotation or rules. I just go. It’s like the real world, except I still have the ‘intern’ label.”
Gyllenhaal landed the internship through a serious of connections and prior experience. Sue Palka, the weather anchor at WTTG, has a daughter who graduated from Elon, and she helped Gyllenhaal network with the right people.
Of course, his remarkable reel and resume, which includes the recent Hearst win, helped out, too. (“I’ve shown my reel to a few photographers and reporters, and they’ve really been impressed,” he says. “They have a high regard for Elon’s communications program.”)
All in all, Gyllenhaal says this is probably the most important internship he’s done during his time at Elon because he wants to work in a feverish, hair-trigger newsroom after college.
“Interning here makes me realize how bad I want to do this in the real world,” Gyllenhaal says. “It’s fun watching reporters cut stories and photographers shoot video, but in reality, I’d rather be the one doing it.
“Working at a local TV station is something I will do when I graduate. I’m here now to prepare myself to enter the storm that is television news. Hopefully, I’ll learn something that will help me not trip and stumble when I’m out in the real world.”
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.