By Maya Brown
CNN has been my dream company to work for for as long as I’ve known I wanted to become a journalist. In the summer of 2020, I attended the virtual NABJ/NAHJ Conference and one of my goals was to network and make at least 10 connections. When I saw that CNN was going to be at a booth, I immediately signed up for a session to network with the company and that was only the beginning. After meeting Megan Marcus, the Executive Producer from CNN Audio, I sent a thank you note and frequently kept in touch. When I saw that job postings went up for CNN, I applied and connected again with Megan, who told me more about the role and gave me interview tips and advice. A couple of weeks later and I was the intern for CNN Audio.
As an intern with CNN Audio, I had many responsibilities that changed day to day due to the constant news cycle of the coronavirus and the election. One of my responsibilities was assisting the CNN Audio team with research, finding background information for episodes and locating potential guests. One of my favorite moments was finding Latosha Brown, the cofounder of Black Voters Matter, for the first episode of “Silence is Not an Option” that I co-produced. I came to realize that Don Lemon, the host of the podcast, loved Latosha, and he became friends with her. Another of my responsibilities was helping with recording and basic editing, in which I was able to learn ProTools and also learn the best way to record a podcast remotely. I was responsible for collaborating with team members on pitches for new series ideas including the “Silence is Not an Option” and the “Coronavirus: Fact versus Fiction” podcasts. Supporting distribution efforts via Instagram and Twitter by pulling quotes was another one of my responsibilities. Lastly, I also helped the executive producer with administrative support when needed, including organizing Excel spreadsheets and developing new ideas.
What I wish I had known from the start was probably the amount of work that I would be doing, as I probably would have taken a lighter course load. When I began the internship, I had to drop one of my classes as I was taking 18 credits at the time. Once I knew that I had secured an intern position with CNN that would be 20 hours a week, I dropped one to better balance my internship, classes and extracurriculars. Although it was a difficult balancing act, it was one of the best experiences that I have ever had, and I have learned how to even better manage my time.
What I would tell another School of Journalism student considering this internship in the future is to always be open to networking and connecting with people. One of the most valuable components of the internship was being able to speak with CNN employees across different departments, and I made what I believe will be long-lasting connections. I would also say, don’t be afraid of speaking up and pitching your own ideas. For example, during the three months of interning with CNN Audio, I pitched three episode ideas for the “Politically Sound” podcast, and one of my pitches will be used for a future episode. Also, when you speak up and sell your pitches and ideas, it leaves a lasting impression on the team.
What I learned from this internship was how to podcast and tell a story that people would want to listen to in a way that impacts them. I learned how to record efficiently and use SOTs, or sound over tape, in episodes, which can add context; how to create concepts for podcast shows and topics for episodes; and how to find and book guests. Overall, my experience with CNN Audio was my favorite internship I have ever had. Learning more about the work environment and culture shows me even more why I want to work for CNN in the future.