Journalism students in Turkey: seeking internships in time of the pandemic

Author: Melike Pala

COVID-19 has changed many things in our lives dramatically. The lessons we listened to in the classroom are replaced with online training. The professional office setting where you share your experiences with your colleagues and socialize is replaced with the working from home. And seeking an internship has become more difficult than ever. The journalism student like me who is looking for an internship in the media sector where internship experience is of great importance in order to find a job after graduation, finds it rare to see an internship advert during COVID-19 pandemic. 

According to the SpringerLink’s survey , the students who have an internship in the years immediately after graduating from university are 15% less likely to be unemployed than students who do not. For journalism students, like all other students, internships are seen as a "must-have" experience to find a job after graduation. All media companies that will hire newly graduated journalists insist that the person has at least one internship experience. 

 

Internships for university students are among the most affected job opportunities by the COVID-19 pandemic in terms of many offers being suddenly cancelled and a decrease in intern hiring. The results of a survey released by the National Association of Colleges and Employers in May shows that 22% of employers has revoked internship offers due to the pandemic. National Centre for Biotechnology Information’s survey showed that 40% of college students lost an internship or job offer in the spring of 2020. Media companies that continue to employ interns preferred to move their summer internships program to the virtual platform. 

Decline of internships in Turkey 

Even though there isn’t any survey or data about the internship recruitment after the pandemic in Turkey, journalism students who were seeking internships in the summer period agree that there is a perceptible decline. It is obvious that there’ve been difficulties in finding an internship for the last few years in Turkey. These are a few institutions that recruit trainees, the scarcity of internship places opened by these institutions, and the various injustices during the interviews. But after the pandemic, it became impossible even to come across any internship advert.

Nisa Küçük, 3rd year journalism student, thinks that most of the media outlets discharged many journalists and did not hire the new ones to replace them due to the economic difficulties. 

“You need to make a lot of effort to enter and win a seat in this sector,” she said and being experienced and knowledgeable is a must. Even though she accepts that finding an internship has always been difficult even before the pandemic, everything started getting worse after the pandemic. Most of the media outlets are not brave enough take on interns. Most of the journalism students were looking for an internship in the summer season but as all media outlets had switched to working from home, it was almost impossible to happen. While even the employees could not adapt to this situation, they did not want to hire interns they did not know before. Mrs Küçük said almost no friends could do an internship like her. 

Egehan Deniz Koska, 3rd year communication design and management student, searched and applied for internships many times after the COVID-19. He searched especially on the internet or by asking friends and the people he knew but he could see only a few internship adverts.

“However, in order not to lose my hope, I applied for an internship to many media organizations, advertising agencies and many other places,” Koska said, but 95 percent of the e-mails he wrote were not returned. 

Those which were, have already responded negatively or they postponed it for later. The refusal and postponement’s means economic difficulties for the students. He thinks that there is a huge drop in internship hiring after the COVID-19. Even though he has been researching for an internship from the beginning of the pandemic until today, unfortunately he could not find any. 

Online is the only solution 

While almost all media companies prefer to hire interns for online work, a journalism student is not willing to do an online internship. The one of the points the students have is that they cannot learn the job properly with an online experience. 3rd year journalism student Sevcan Incesu is one of them. She does not believe that she would learn something thanks to online internships. As Incesu, anyone would worry about interns who are doing online internships since they do not care too much even in face-to-face internships. Besides that, working from home is a very difficult situation for an inexperienced person in terms of being able to learn about the running of the office and what you need to know about journalism. Even most of the students who did online internships also think that this way is very inefficient.

The internships are not just about going to office every day, but also networking opportunities and socialization. 

“I think journalism is a profession that you should do collectively, with your senior colleagues in order to gain experience from them,” Mrs Küçük said. In addition, journalism is especially directly related to making connections with people. All the experiences in the media can be gained by working in the street and speaking with people face-to-face. 

The economic damage caused by COVID-19, like all segments of society, significantly affects new graduates or senior students of journalism. Many journalism students are almost certain that they will not find a permanent job because they cannot find internships. Employers who ask new graduates whether they have work experience or not have also not recruited interns since the pandemic. It is kind of a vicious circle: having work experience is necessary, but how to get it?