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The Value of Internships

By November 22, 2023December 27th, 2023Resources

One of the hardest parts of leaving the military is deciding what to do next with your life. I was a Blackhawk crew chief in the Army, so journalism wasn’t exactly a lateral move for me. After years of stumbling through community college and graduate programs, I’d finally found myself in the professional world without much guidance to help me figure out what to do next. Military Veterans in Journalism has been extremely helpful with that transition by connecting me with mentors and placing me at NPR for a six-month internship that helped bridge the gap between my schooling and professional life.

Photojournalist and veteran Jeffrey Dean at work. Photo courtesy of Jeffrey Dean.

When I was first approached about applying for the MVJ internship at NPR, I initially dismissed the notion. The position was for a writer, and being primarily a photojournalist, I didn’t see how six months of writing would help me advance my career goals. But, as we all know, opportunities in this world can be few and far between at times. My soon-to-be editors assured me that this internship would be curated to help me learn and grow as a well-rounded journalist while also providing an opportunity to work at one of the premier news outlets in the country. I was sold.

While at NPR, I spent the first three months on the business desk, where I learned how to work with a team to divide up coverage and tackle important news stories like tariffs and the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic on businesses. I learned what the editing process for a written piece looked like. I received constant guidance and feedback on story-telling techniques and how to shape a narrative. I was able to photograph my stories and work with the visuals team, and I even got to produce an audio piece that aired on NPR’s radio broadcast (still a highlight of my fledgling career!).

After three months on the business desk, I switched to the digital news hub, where I first began learning how to curate NPR’s news stories on their different audio platforms. True to my editor’s word, when we realized that this didn’t exactly align with my professional goals, I was shifted to the breaking news team. There, I had the opportunity to work on news stories such as the invasion of Ukraine and cover the deadly tornadoes in western Kentucky. These experiences gave me valuable insight into how a large news organization decides what to report on and how to cover it. I worked with my colleagues as a team to ensure that people got important information in a timely fashion, lessons I carry with me to this day on every assignment.

Although I entered my internship unsure what I would get from the experience, I left with a body of published work that I am extremely proud of. I was able to work with some of the top professionals in the field and emerged feeling as though I was ready to be a professional. I found my colleagues treated me with respect due to my service and regularly asked me about my perspective on different news stories.

I can’t express enough how important I feel it is for veterans such as ourselves to be a part of the rapidly evolving media landscape and I am eternally grateful to MVJ for helping me and encouraging other veterans to participate in internships such as this one, even if it seems as though it doesn’t align with your goals. Every experience will help you grow as a journalist if you enter them with an open mind and a willingness to learn. These experiences also provide the tools you need to get fast and accurate information to the public about the world around them.

Check out some of Jeffrey’s sports photojournalism work below.

Jeffrey is a former MEDEVAC Crewchief for the US Army who is currently a freelance photojournalist. He has worked with the Associated Press, Getty Images, NPR, NBA, Reuters, Bloomberg, Drawbridge Digital, The Big Ten Conference, and AFP, as well as other national and international organizations. He also wrote for NPR’s Business Desk as well as their Digital News Hub. He produced a series of films for Hearst Television’s Very Local series.