Today, Wes Pippert held an information session about the Washington Program, which he has directed since the 1980s. The semester-long program essentially places graduate or undergraduate students in professional newsrooms, firms, agencies and other such journalism/communication workplaces, where the students work alongside professionals in completing their chosen/designated professional project.
Pippert emphasized the “professional project” aspect of the program and, wihin the first five minutes of the session, was vocal about distinguishing that from an “internship.” He highlighted a few participants whose newsrooms/what-have-you placed them in prominent stories. For example, one student who backed out of the program at the last minute was slated to be a Washington correspondent for a Spokane, Wash., newspaper. What the student didn’t know was, his editor had already signed him up to cover Obama’s inauguration and gotten credentials and everything set up.
I’m not sure yet what would qualify as a professional project. Therefore, I don’t know what I would want to do — although, it’d probably be something that would incorporate both reporting and photojournalism. I also don’t know for which semester I’d apply: fall or spring? Either semester I choose, I’d a) have to find a subleaser and b) push back my graduation by one semester.
But I’m definitely interested. The potential benefits are numerous:
- I’d be working in a professional environment.
- I’d be working in Washington, D.C.
- I’d be learning, networking and building my portfolio all at the same time.
- I’d get to exert a large degree of control/direction over what I’d be doing (which would not necessarily happen in a traditional internship program).
- I’d be working in Washington, D.C.
- I’d be earning college credit while I’m at it.
- I’d get a discount on a membership to the National Press Club.
- I’d get to expand my journalistic and political horizons from the local and state level to the federal level.
- Did I mention I’d be working in Washington, D.C.?
On a more personal note, this is all comically ironic. As some of my college friends know, my mother made me apply to and visit American University back when I was a senior in high school. She knew I was hell-bent set on going to the University of Missouri, but wanted me to seriously consider attending American because of its renowned broadcast program and heavy emphasis on international relations, politics and etc.
My objections included the following:
- After working for and editing my high school newspaper, I had no desire to be in broadcast anyway.
- (At the time) I hated politics, never read political reporting and didn’t understand financial markets/the economy. I really wanted to explore human interest stories.
- The leaves turn red in the fall in Columbia, Mo., where there are red-brick and stone buildings. What I saw of American’s campus was a collection of concrete blocks. I’m not kidding when I cite this as a reason that contributed to my decision to attend MU.
Obviously, at least one bullet point has changed since then. I no longer hate politics, I understand and have done political reporting and I definitely have a better grasp on financial/economic issues.
This is all to say that I know my mother is going to give me a hard time when I call her later to tell her about this Washington Program to which I’m applying and that would delay my graduation by one semester. Sure, she’ll raise some questions about money and room+board, but if she doesn’t tease me about my initial disinclination toward political reporting, I will be very disappointed.