Joyce Terhaar

From the Executive Editor: Bee interns learning the ropes

Joyce Terhaar
Joyce Terhaar

As you walk into The Bee's newsroom this summer, one of the first things you see is a bulletin board plastered with pictures of 11 (mostly) smiling faces.

Those faces, and the attached bios, belong to our news interns. They range in education from David Ruiz, who just received his master's degree in communication from Stanford University, to Andrea Gallo, a junior undergraduate at Louisiana State University. They include students from universities in our backyard – Kacey Gardner, a copy editor from Chico State University, and Richard Chang, a reporter from the University of California, Davis.

All the interns are paid the equivalent of at least minimum wage, but many are paid through their university by journalism foundations and organizations. The Bee employs two directly and either matches or contributes to stipends paid to five.

Employment reports across the country have revealed a bleak picture for young people in recent years. Journalism is no exception – jobs continue to be scarce in newsrooms – which is one of the reasons we commit the editing energy to run this program. I'm a firm believer that democracy needs journalists to provide the spotlight that keeps everyone honest. That means we need to help future reporters, editors and visual journalists start their careers.

Two of our three Stanford students (Ruiz and junior Ravali Reddy), are paid through the Rebele Journalism Internship Program, created by Rowland and Pat Rebele in 1986 to help students "gain hands-on, journalistic work experience," according to Stanford's website. The third, Julie Granka, is a AAAS fellow. The American Association for the Advancement of Science has funded fellowships for more than three decades to promote quality science journalism. It places students such as Granka, a Ph.D. student in biology, into newsrooms around the country.

Hannah Madans, a junior at the University of Southern California, is interning at our Capitol Bureau, funded by the Diana Chudacoff Levin Award for students interested in politics and civic engagement. UCD's Chang is funded partly by the local branch of the Asian American Journalists Association. LSU's Gallo is paid through the Scripps Howard Foundation.

The Yale Journalism Initiative is paying two of our interns – Jing Cao, a senior at Yale, and Uzra Khan, who just graduated. Jacqueline Sahlberg, who graduates in December, is funded by the Oldest College Daily Foundation, which provides financial support to Yale's student newspaper, where she is a reporter. We hired back another Yale graduate, Max Ehrenfreund, who was paid by Yale's Bildner and Alexander journalism grants last year when he worked for The Bee.

The initiative began with a grant from Yale alumnus and journalist Steven Brill and his wife, Cynthia Margolin Brill, in 2006, according to the college website, which describes its purpose this way: "to encourage and equip students in Yale College, and in its graduate and professional schools, who aspire to contribute to democracy in the United States and around the world by becoming journalists."

Yale does not offer a journalism major, instead "believing that the best preparation for a career in writing is a broad, liberal-arts education."

What the students learn from our editors and reporters is how to transition from the classroom to the newsroom.

Each intern has a primary editor who talks through necessary reporting and edits the story. Scott Lebar, senior editor for investigations, and Janet Vitt, an assistant city editor, run weekly lunches featuring speakers including Publisher Cheryl Dell and our McClatchy First Amendment lawyer, Steve Burns. Vitt's dedication to the interns extends beyond her editing – she's brought home-cooked meals to the lunches for years, and at one point even her neighbor, an avid Bee reader, contributed grilled tri-tip.

At a recent lunch, the interns were asked to tell Dell what they had learned so far that surprised them. One surprise: The Bee's policy limiting the use of anonymous sources. Lebar, Managing Editor Tom Negrete or I have to sign off on any such use. We evaluate the quality of the source, whether the information is integral to the story and important for our readers, whether it will be confirmed publicly at some point and why the source needs anonymity.

The policy makes it difficult for a reporter to defend using an anonymous source. That, Lebar told the group, is the point.

The lunches include The Bee's lone online advertising intern. Amber Diller, a journalism major at California Polytechnic State University, is from Rocklin. She is part of the McClatchy Advertising Internship program and as such is paid by The Bee's corporate parent.