Alum Donations, Scripps Howard Partnership Help Students Land Internship Opportunities

By Corey Bruecker

Imagine being a student offered a once-in-a-lifetime experience to spend the summer interning at a prestigious organization. But after the initial excitement fades, you come to the startling realization that you can’t afford to be an unpaid intern.

That’s exactly the situation Ernesto Rivera found himself in.

After Rivera’s original summer plans fell through, he got the opportunity to apply to intern at SFGate, an online branch of the San Francisco Chronicle.

He applied, interviewed and was offered the internship in just three days.

“It all happened so fast that I didn’t even get a chance to think about it,” Rivera said. “I realized I couldn’t afford to live in San Francisco and that the payment had to come from somewhere else.”

Orion Macs

Many students face the dilemma of deciding what’s more important when determining summer job or internships plans: Making money or gaining valuable experience.

To J&PR Chair Susan Wiesinger, there’s no question — you can’t pass up experience. But that doesn’t mean you should have to sacrifice everything to get it.

“If the options are working a low-paying service job for the summer or gaining experience in industry, we want to help students make the choice that puts them on a career path,” she said. “Stipends and scholarships can make that choice easier.”

Chico State J&PR offers two opportunities to students to help take the sting out of an unpaid or low-paying internship.

Internship Stipend Program

Rivera was able to take the SFGate internship after he received a stipend through alumni funding.

The internship stipend program was started three years ago to help students take advantage of internship opportunities by providing financial assistance based on need.

The department began the program when faculty members wanted to figure out a way to help students get better internships in a time when paid internships were drying up, Wiesinger said.

The stipend program started with a $5,000 donation from alumnus David Hufford, which was matched by his employer, Microsoft. The $10,000 provided the seed money for the program, which has since expanded due to additional alumni donations.

Companies like McClatchy, which owns The Sacramento Bee, The Fresno Bee and The Modesto Bee among many other news organizations, rely on grant programs to help their internship dollars go further each summer. They have helped the alumni stipend program’s success by doubling contributions paid to the students.

For example, several students have been awarded $1,000 J&PR internship stipends, with the McClatchy newspapers contributing an additional $2,000 per student. This means that a.) Chico State J&PR students get internships they might not otherwise get; and, b.) the internships last at least 10 weeks.

Contributing to the program is one of the most significant ways alumni can give back to the Chico State J&PR, because the money goes directly to the students, Wiesinger said.

For students to be considered to receive a stipend, they must fill out an application and describe the nature of their internship and their financial need.

Though the stipend won’t always cover all the expenses, it can at least cover the cost of commuting, which is especially helpful to students interning in the Bay Area.

“We’re really shooting for life-changing internships,” Wiesinger said. “We want to help someone really talented get a great job and show them that they’re worth the investment. All of our students are worth the investment.”

Rivera’s experience was nothing short of memorable, he said. He spent the summer managing and creating content for the Web including story supplements, photo galleries and blog posts, and had the opportunity to look at the analytics of what he produced.

“I would get an email that said, ‘Hey Ernesto, that thing that you produced yesterday got a million hits,’” Rivera said. “It was ridiculous to hear that something I produced got so many hits in one day.”

Scripps Howard Foundation Partner School

Chico State J&PR students have long benefitted from opportunities provided by the Scripps Howard Foundation. For example, several past J&PR students—now alumni—were competitively selected to spend summer working in Washington, D.C., for either Scripps Howard Foundation Wire or Hispanic Link News Service.

But the relationship between J&PR and Scripps Howard has grown markedly in the past three years.

Not only has Scripps Howard funded a number of faculty development opportunities, but it also has named Chico State J&PR a partner school, providing students yet another opportunity to receive substantive internship opportunities and funding.

The Scripps Howard Foundation is an organization that supports excellence in journalism and strives to invest in programs that will equip student journalists for the future.

As a partner school the department receives a scholarship every year from the foundation to award to a student, who must secure his or her own internship. Ideally the student will work for an E.W. Scripps newspaper, like the Redding Record-Searchlight or Ventura County Star.

The Scripps Howard Foundation does not, however, limit opportunities to its own news organizations. J&PR’s most recent recipient of the Scripps Howard Foundation’s summer internship grant was Mozes Zarate, who spent 10 weeks of summer 2014 at The Sacramento Bee.

Zarate received $3,000 from Scripps Howard to fully fund his Bee internship, as well as receiving a $500 scholarship to use at Chico State in fall 2014. The internship funding secured Zarate’s opportunity at the Bee, which otherwise might not have been possible as the bulk of the news organization’s internship funding had been allocated.

There were three other Chico State students in the Bee newsroom last summer and working beside them made it feel more like home, Zarate said. He considers himself lucky to have had the experience.

“Opportunities like this wouldn’t be possible without the funding and help from organizations that care about the future of journalism and about allowing other news operations to give students this opportunity,” he said.

Being a Scripps partner opens many doors for Chico State J&PR, whether it be for funding or visibility of the program.

Wiesinger is excited about the opportunities that the partnership brings, she said. Scripps notices when alumni donate to the program and it makes it clear that the department is worth giving to.

“Scripps is an outstanding company and a good fit for us,” she said. “They value the things that we value and they treat our students well.”