By Frank Gargano
For the summer of 2018, going into my junior year, I was extremely lucky to snag a Dow Jones News Fund internship with American Banker. Here I was, finished with sophomore year and just starting to take the more serious journalism classes (i.e., JRN 301, JRN 215, etc.) and I had been chosen to train with professionals to be a business journalist.
I admit, however, that at times I had taken the idea of internships for granted. But last October, I started getting paranoid that everyone around me was getting internships, and I felt like I was falling behind. So, almost like reflex, I sprinted to Professor Selvin’s office and asked for her to bestow some of her wisdom upon me. Essentially, “I need an internship, whaddya got?”
She asked what my interests were for writing, and I told her I had interests in business reporting and culture writing. But business was the primary one. She told me how, two days from that talk, the J-School was proctoring a Dow Jones News Fund test and that if I wanted to try it out to see what it’s like, it would be a good opportunity.
So, I grabbed some old practice tests and glanced at them for the next few days before the test.
When I sat down to take it, I didn’t really know what to expect. The practice tests were a good gauge, but they change up the format every year or so.
When I opened the first page, I scrunched my brow in disbelief. The first questions were asking to identify basic concepts like “what is a dividend?” and “what is preferred stock?” I assumed that an elite news fund would ask more challenging questions, but I answered them nonetheless. The rest of the sections followed suit. One just was easy as the next.
Except for the last section. That required more thought. It was a deconstructed story that required you to order paragraphs in a sense that would allow the story to flow best. In the end, I guess I did fairly well.
Next came the summer training camp at NYU. They called it a boot camp, and they did not lie. From 8:30 in the morning to 6:45 in the afternoon, we ran through lessons ranging from Excel spreadsheets to number proofing to story-drafting practice. That week reworked my thought processes for story drafting and data analysis and honestly improved the overall quality of my pieces.
Our class of about 20 interns came from all over the country, from the West Coast to the East. Most of them had graduated from college and were either going into grad school or looking for their first/next job. I was the youngest and the only one from New York, which sucked when the introductory dinner and closing networking events involved bars. But I still successfully connected with professionals and spent a good deal of time with the other interns. We toured the floor of the New York Stock Exchange as well as The Wall Street Journal, where industry experts talked to us like peers and gave us tips and advice for navigating the field.
Once boot camp ended, the work began.
The 12-14 weeks that I spent at American Banker were the most informative I’ve ever spent in a work environment. I felt like less of a grunt intern and more of a peer. Aside from the several briefs on bank M&A activity, succession plans and earnings releases, I worked on multiple Excel assignments where the data within tied to a graph in the print issues of the publication. I ran each graphic at least seven or eight times to make sure that everything was perfect. And my editor saw that I was staying late to do so and before I left would tell me, “I really appreciate you helping out and staying longer.”
In the end, I’d interviewed bank executives, attended investors conference and made several connections. If I had the chance to do it all again, I wouldn’t change a thing.