Monday, September 16, 2013

Internship Spotlight: Ben Williamson


My name is Ben and I want to write about science, but I didn't always know it. I didn't even know for sure when I flew to Sudbury to be in the 2012-2013 SciComm class. Luckily, having to hunt for internships has a marvellous concentrating effect on the mind, and I realised my true calling with many hours to spare.
So, with a few scrappy articles from local newspapers, a barren CV, and a smile, I applied to get some experience in the writing business. Alternatives Journal was extraordinarily compassionate to my cause and I put my life on a bus to Kitchener.
There, I researched, fact-checked and, upon completion of the latter activity, entered the witness protection program. Fact-checking, you see, involves inspecting every clause, figure and contextualization for accuracy. The goal is to protect the author and magazine from saying something regrettable, but I took frequent excursions across the line of pedantic nit-picking.
I also got to write. Eric, the editor, put enormous trust in me and gave me assignments that fit me perfectly. These were challengingI had no experience writing narratives; structuring  long pieces to flow and keep interest; cold calling people for comments; conducting, recording and transcribing interviews or really much of anything that has to do with science journalism.
Throughout, Eric mentored and advised, and I learned many skills I'll need. I learned one more thing when I handed in the articles: how important a good editor is. He helped turn my clunky and bloated piece into a focussed story.
The statistics for a certain type of internships are pretty depressing. They can be of no benefit for finding a job. I didn't jump straight into full time work either, but I did become qualified for the jobs I want, and I made contributions that I'm very proud of.
Ben Williamson, Science Communication Graduate 2013

Internship Spotlight: Sabrina Doyle


Sometimes, life changes while eating cookies in bed. At least, for me it did. When I got “the call” I was cross-legged, bending over my laptop and wiping crumbs from my sheets onto the floor. It was Canadian Geographic on the line, offering me an internship. This was the dream. I choke on my cookie and immediately start sweating.
It’s now a few months after that day, and my two-month internship has transformed into a paid position. I feel incredibly lucky. I’ve spent the past two months interviewing, writing, and sitting in on editorial meetings. I’ve met some wonderful people and learned a lot.
Among my favourite memories includes a fortuitous morning spent in a production meeting where my first story pitch for the magazine was accepted. Canadian Geographic is wonderful in that interns are always invited to the editorial meetings, where we gain extremely useful insight into the process of how a story is discussed and are able to observe the various social dynamics that go on in a group of creative, intelligent people.
As for the science communication program, I think one of the greatest strengths is its ability to expose students to a wider variety of options than they may have thought were available. I remember scanning through the long list of internship locations that past students went, and while I was pretty set on what I wanted to do, it was comforting to know that Dave and Chantal had so many friends in the industry.
In both internship and program, I’ve found that one cliché really holds true: what you put into it is what you get out of it. My advice would be to pitch both stories and ideas, volunteer at events, and if possible, spend at least one afternoon playing porketta bingo and drinking too much beer with people who are much older than you.
Or don’t do any of those things. By all means, find your own way and discard everything I’ve said. After all I still eat in bed, and still consider the floor an acceptable short-term solution for crumbs. But at least now I can afford the brand name cookies.
Sabrina Doyle, Science Communication Graduate 2013