Journalism students on C-SPAN, PBS internships—and how they got them

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Photo: Illustration by Rachel Choi.

Intern taking notes in front of the White House.

By Chloe Els, Staff Writer

As a programming intern for C-SPAN, Carol Rangel spent the 2022 midterms furiously taking notes to help with election coverage.

“I think I was [at work] until 2 a.m.,” Rangel said. “I was watching four speeches at once. C-SPAN has been really good at involving me in their process.”

Rangel, a senior journalism major, is only one out of a handful of Emerson students currently spending her fall semester in Washington, D.C.., splitting her time between classes and an internship. As a programming intern, Rangel spends her days observing public political events around the district and making note of potentially  newsworthy events. She also helps prepare news programs to go on air.

The Washington Center, a semester-long program designed to help students gain real world experience, allows up to 20 Emerson students to spend a semester in Washington, D.C. While the program is known for its political internship opportunities with institutions like the Library of Congress and the White House, it also offers opportunities for students to work for non-profits, social advocacy groups, and law agencies.

Like Rangel, junior journalism major Jordan Owens is currently interning at PBS as a production assistant for a show called “To The Contrary,” which focuses on women’s rights and political analysis.

One of Owens’ main responsibilities as a production assistant intern is to edit clips of “To The Contrary” to promote on PBS’ social media. She also helps with writing the show’s newsletter and booking panelists.

While Owens feels well prepared for her internship due to Emerson’s hands-on learning approach to journalism, she said adjusting to being a member of the workforce was an unexpected challenge.

“After spending so many years in school, I feel like I’ve been trained to be a student,” Owens said. “I had this subconscious thinking that I was going to be a student forever. I definitely didn’t realize how tiring the workforce can be.”

Beyond the challenge of being in the workforce, both Rangel and Owens acknowledge how daunting the initial hiring process can be for students seeking internships. Networking remains their best advice for getting internships and opportunities that otherwise seem unattainable.

“Making personal connections goes a long way,” Rangel said. “Find out if an Emersonian works at a place you would like to work at and, if you show interest, you’ll have an edge.”

Rangel initially connected with a producer at C-SPAN who is an alumnus of Emerson. She also emailed a human resources representative at C-SPAN directly, which led to her interview for the position.

Owens also believes networking can be a helpful tool in the hiring process. 

“Don’t be afraid to put yourself out there,” Owens said, noting that one of the first steps students should take is to make an effort to connect with their professors.

Both also suggested starting small by applying to local news organizations to gain experience. 

“News organizations just want to see that you have experience reporting,” Rangels said. “They don’t care where.”

Though both are broadcasting interns, neither originally intended to join the industry. While on Boston’s campus, Rangel worked largely behind the scenes at WEBN and Owens was involved with Good Morning Emerson—both broadcast shows—but neither expressed interest in being a broadcast journalist. 

Rangel’s passion for political reporting persuaded her to apply to C-SPAN.

“My original impression of broadcasting was that you have to be in front of the camera, which is not what I want,” Rangel said. “But I’ve discovered I enjoy the production and editorial side. I’d like to explore that after I graduate. I don’t think I’m doing print journalism anymore.”

Owens said she came to Emerson wanting to be an editor at a print news organization and did not plan on broadcast journalism. Although she enjoyed exploring broadcast journalism through her internship, Owens wants to get back into writing.

In addition to gaining career experience, one of Rangel’s favorite parts about the Washington, D.C. program is interacting with politicians. 

“On Wednesday, I was at work and my roommate sent me a link to sign up for an event with President Biden,” she said. “I couldn’t believe it was real, but we checked it out after work and actually got to see President Biden speak, stuff like that only happens in D.C.”

Owens likes to see different aspects of the political system to expand her horizons as a reporter.

“[‘To The Contrary’] has this series where we interview different women in business,” Owens said. “We interviewed a woman in charge of getting unions for sex workers and another woman who wrote a book about women leading Italian mafias.”

Owens’ and Rangel’s positive experiences in the district have inspired both to move there after graduation and pursue journalism in America’s political epicenter.

“I thought I would miss Boston,” Rangel said with a smile, “but I actually never even think about it now that I’m in D.C.”