Beyond student workers: Journalism internships in digital age

With faculty consultant and student interns, journalism schools can help develop and execute a content strategy for nonprofit organizations.

In a digital age when institutions can directly reach out to mass audiences, most institutions don’t know how to engage audiences. Meanwhile, in a journalism internship, J-schools usually don’t tell host institutions what to do; instead, J-schools send out student interns and track their performance for how well they do what the host sites tell them to do.

Journalism schools need to play a bigger role in a digital-age internship. A dedicated faculty coordinator can advise a nonprofit organization on what they can do, and help them coordinate the execution of a content strategy, which involves content selection, production and distribution.

As an example, one content strategy is to tell an institution’s compelling but hidden stories.

Every organization has compelling stories to tell

In a blog post about business-to-business marketing communication, the writer lists four types of story that a B2B company can promote; these story ideas also provide food for thought when it comes to content strategy for nonprofit organizations.

Company history: Present your origin story through the lens of customer solutions to better connect with your target audience. Look for compelling events in your company history as sources for individual stories.

Customer success: Prospects and customers really like to hear from successful customers. If you want to make it more authentic, pick a customer that struggled through the implementation process. Depending on your product or services, showing the hard work involved may be a benefit.

Employee activities: Customers and prospects want to know more about the face behind the Twitter account or email address. Let your people tell their stories and share what they are passionate about. This is the first step to building these after-sale relationships.

Community support: Many B2B companies are involved in their communities because they care. Show this compassion by sharing a story about your community efforts. This is the kind of story that shows something about the leaders of your company, as well as your employees.

J-Schools can help with consultation, production and promotion

In a digital-age journalism internship, journalism schools can advise nonprofit organizations on the type of “hidden stories” that can be used for promotion; with “stories” identified, J-schools can help with content production and promotion.

The organization stories can be told in a variety of ways: words, audio, photo, video, slideshows, etc., and can be promoted via multiple venues: press release, website, blog, newsletter, Twitter, Facebook, Instagram, Pinterest, etc.

However, as I said in a previous post, although the (small- and medium-sized) nonprofits can now bypass the mass media and directly reach for a massive audience, they lack the expertise to produce engaging contents. And that calls for an enhanced internship arrangement with journalism schools, because the core of journalism training is nothing but content collection, production and distribution.

That’s also why I said that there has never been a better time to be a journalism major, because, in the past, such content skills were demanded only by news media employers; today, they are increasingly demanded by social institutions and the public, along with news media:

journalism skills

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About Mu Lin

Dr. Mu Lin is a digital journalism professional and educator in New Jersey, United States. Dr. Lin manages an online marketing company. He also manages MulinBlog Online J-School (, a free online journalism training program, which offers courses such as Audio Slideshow Storytelling; Introduction to Social Media Marketing; Writing for the Web; Google Mapping for Communicators; Introduction to Data Visualization; Introduction to Web Metrics and Google Analytics.
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