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Kate Icely

DISPATCHES 2: What’s in an Internship?

Two workers stand at a printer discussing the contents of some sheets of paper.

2974341 Dispatches 2When I enrolled at Ryerson in the fall of 2011, I took as many editing courses as I could. Copy editing, proofreading, grammar, substantive editing…. The more courses I took, the more I loved working with words. After years of university, here I was, finally surrounded by people who thought exactly as I did. People who saw the world in organizational schematics—who believed that information should (and could) flow with grace and eloquence. I was hooked.

I wasn’t very far into the Ryerson program before I realized that if I wanted to get a job in the publishing industry, I was going to need to get an internship. Since then, I have had two. My first was at a small press called the Porcupine’s Quill, where I served as a general intern (generally doing a bit of everything) for over a year. The second was at Random House Canada, where I am still an editorial intern now.

Before we embark on a journey deep into the trenches of Toronto’s publishing scene, let’s talk a bit about what an editorial internship is. Internships come in all shapes and sizes. Some are big, some are small; some require remote work, others are in house; and some are paid, some have an honorarium, and some are not paid at all. For this series, I’m going to focus on internships at big houses (though I am happy to answer questions about my experience at a small press—just leave a comment below or send me a tweet).  Internships at the big firms are generally three months and full time, and interns are paid an honorarium upon completion.

Interns are everywhere—but with a three-month turnover, if you blink, you’ll probably miss them. So what do these intrepid interns do? In editorial, the answer is quite a bit. An editorial intern’s job is to support the editors: reading submissions, writing reader’s reports, and checking printer’s proofs. Sometimes interns also get to do more advanced work. For example, at my current internship I have been able to work on a few indexes. (Imagine my excitement at catching a hyphen that was meant to be an en dash!) Most recently, I’ve been extremely fortunate to be able to shadow an editor, assisting in organizing photographic material for an exciting fall title.

So what do you think about internships? Do you think it’s the best way for young people to get a job in the industry? And do you think the work of an editorial intern is a good stepping stone for an editorial job?

Previous post in this series: Dispatches from an Editorial Intern

Next post: An Intern’s Survival Guide


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5 Comments on “DISPATCHES 2: What’s in an Internship?”

  • Michelle Schriver

    says:

    I’ve never been an intern, but I’m sure an internship can be a great way to learn about the industry and to develop relationships. However, I’m concerned about the acceptance of working for free or for an honorarium. Do internships devalue potential entry-level professionals who are trying to break into the industry? And what about the injustice created by internships to workers unable to accept internships due to expenses such as child care or travel?

    • Michelle Schriver

      says:

      …the injustice created…for workers. (Sorry, the editor in me had to change that conjunction; not the best of sentences…)

  • Kate Icely

    says:

    Michelle, thank you for your comments! These are exactly the kinds of questions I am hoping to inspire with the DISPATCHES series. Yes, internships are a great way for aspiring publishers to learn about the industry, but I think you are right to question their prominence in recent years. Does the availability of inexpensive labour mean fewer people are being hired in entry-level positions? And what does it mean when only a restricted group, who are independently wealthy or supported by their parents, are able to pursue internships? Hazlitt published an excellent article on your latter point a few months ago, and I think it provides an accurate assessment of the consequences this will have on the industry. I urge you to check it out–I’ve linked to it below. Despite the drawbacks that you very rightly point out about internships, at this time they are one of the only ways to snag a job in-house in the publishing industry. Considering the tough times publishing is seeing, is there any other way? (I throw this question out generally…. All are welcome to weigh in!)
    http://bit.ly/PzCIfY

  • Michelle Schriver

    says:

    Thanks for the link, Kate. I enjoyed that article — she certainly raised good points. I look forward to the next article in your series.

    • Kate Icely

      says:

      I’m glad to have you reading along!

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