The CBC internship run-around

For those of you who don’t know, I’ve been trying very hard over the past couple of months to get some type of CBC Radio internship. This is partly on the suggestion of Deb Woolway in Halifax, who listed an internship as a requirement for me to be considered for any type of Halifax summertime fill-in work.

Here’s the latest update. What follows all happened yesterday. It may read as long and boring, but is extremely relevant to people (like me) who are interested in CBC internships, especially in Toronto.

I awoke at four o’clock, showered, ate, and headed down to the CBC to do a job shadow following veteran reporter Geoff Ellwand around for a day. Robert Fisher let me in the building, and before Geoff arrived, I ran into Joe Cummings who seemed surprised to see me. “Holy shit,” he said as we shook hands.

A slow newsday, I spent most of the morning reading papers and watching Geoff monitor CP24, the wires, CBC, and 680 all at the same time. He’s an impressive multi-tasker. When I wasn’t reading papers I was trolling the directory for phone numbers. We finally decided to go to the courthouse — a former black panther was up for bail. On the way to the elevators, I recognized Chuck Jutras from my visit last week (Joe Mahoney tried to introduce us), and he invited me into his office. We chatted for about fifteen minutes. I told him what I was interested in, and he said he’d check into internship possibilities for me. I’m to call back in two weeks.

The courthouse was interesting — got to see just how quick radio news can turn around. Watching Geoff work was really quite something.

Around lunchtime, I decided that since I was in the building, I might as well give Joan Melanson a call. She’s my contact for Here and Now and Metro Morning. We’ve been corresponding over the telephone and via email for a while now, so it was nice to finally meet her in person. We chatted about internship possibilities, and she told me that though she’d been hearing positive things, the policies were still somewhat up in the air. Confident that she hadn’t forgotten about me, we shook hands and I reminded her that “I’d love to come work for you for free.”

(It’s important to note that Joan is in charge of local CBL programming — no network shows.)

Sitting beside Geoff was Marilyn Roback, another name I recognized from the local news. I introduced myself, we chatted, I brought up internships, and she pointed me in the direction of a woman named Kate Pemberton. Marilyn introduced us, and again, more chat. Kate explained that she’s part of a collaborative effort working to establish a working global policy on CBC internships. Another person working on this is my good friend senior recruiter Sophia Hadzipetros.

Basically, the deal is this: for a long time, the CBC had a whole bunch of different ways to handle internships. Each show, each region, etc. managed them in a different way. This was, of couse, confusing. And for me, extremely frustrating. I want to work for free, shows want to have me, but no one seems to know how to let me, because there are so many conflicting messages (e.g. interns can’t be paid, interns must be paid, interns must be working towards school credit, etc.).

What Kate and Sophia and others are working on is some sort of across-the-board standard to make things fair. Not just for the shows and for the interns, but also taking into consideration the concerns of the union. When everybody plays by the same rules, it’s easier to play fair. That’s the idea, anyway.

This is good. In theory. But in practice, it’s not so good for me. Because it’s a centralized policy, and because it’s the CBC, there are a lot of hoops to jump through. The process Kate explained to me is:

  1. Student applies to their school’s internship contact
    • School contact screens applicants and suggests candidates to the CBC (i.e. Sophia)
      • Sophia matches interns up with shows
        • Student gets credit This sounds OK. But, for me in particular, there are some problems:

          1. The selection process happens maybe twice or three times per year. I graduate in the spring. Not nearly enough time to get an internship for after Christmas (which is what I want)
            • As far as Kate knew, Ryerson RTA (my program) didn’t exist Yikes. At Kate explained this to me, my heart sank. My dreams — of getting an internship, cooking up an awesome demo, knocking Deb Woolway’s socks off and moving back to Halifax and the girl I love — were fading fast.

              But then, incredible news! It was somehow mentioned that this centralized, global internship policy wouldn’t apply to CBL, only to network programming originating in Toronto. Apparently the higher-ups at CBL were asked to participate in the project, and they said nay. I asked Kate, “So if I wanted to intern on Here and Now or Metro Morning, what’s the policy?”

              “Well, it’s pretty much up to them.”

              Pretty much up to them! If only I could get Joan (who’s unclear on the intern policy) and Kate (who’s got the straight goods) to talk to one another. Well, I got an email from Kate today:

              Joan and I did talk so I hope it all works out for you.

              So, things are looking good. Or at least better than they were a month ago. And remember, this all came out of one day. This is after months and months of banging on doors (apparently not the right ones). Most of the conversations I have with CBC folks about radio internships make me slightly depressed. I had absolutly no idea that it could be this difficult to convince someone to let me work for free.

              But walking home yesterday, I couldn’t stop smiling. Maybe it’s premature. I hope not. This sounds like it could be good news.