Editor’s Notebook: Interns can have an impact on our business, if we let them

Peter Osborne
Editor

“I have an idea,” my 17-year-old summer intern said.

She continued, “The Federal Elections Commission will be publishing all of the contributions data for the presidential candidates and you can look at it in a lot of different ways because it’s in an Excel spreadsheet. And I want to do the story.”

You’ll find the first fruits of her labor in this week’s issue. The data wasn’t complete until 24 hours before our deadline for going to press, so we view this as a work in progress but I think you’ll find some interesting data in here But that’s not the point of this column.

Summer interns are often invisible. Many of us use them to help us check off items on our to-do lists, to organize files, to do “grunt work,” and fill in for people on vacation. I’ve worked a bit harder this summer to involve our intern because she’s also my daughter and will be a senior at Avon Grove High School this fall and serve as editor of the school newspaper.

At the beginning of the summer, I asked her a few questions I haven’t always asked my interns:

  • What do you want to accomplish?
  • What do you want to learn? 

In Abby’s case, she wanted to do side-by-sides with our production area during deadline weeks because we use the same production system as her school.

I invited her to meetings. She learned a lot about Excel this week, and also found that her dad and co-workers actually knew a little bit about it too. She delivered some stories on deadline that came with very few problems. She’s got less angst about interviewing sources. And I think she learned a little about managing her stress on deadline.

I asked her what she thought after some of the meetings we invited her to and got some surprisingly good insight about me and about others in the meetings. She gave us great suggestions on some stories we were doing. There were rocky spots for all of us, but I think that she’ll go back to school with a better understanding about the challenges she’ll face in the workforce when school is done. 

I think the point is that if you have an intern and see them as cheap (or free) labor, it may be worth rethinking that. You still have a few weeks left before they head back to school; consider whether there are some opportunities for the learning process to be a two-way one and ask them some questions about their experience — and about opportunities to end on a high note.

Introducing our new paywall.
I have told you know in the past that we were planning to ask frequent website visitors to demonstrate their appreciation for the value of the content we’re creating by either subscribing to the print edition of the DBT or paying a small fee to avoid limitations on the number of stories they can read on our site each month.

The new website restrictions will go into effect on Aug. 8.
This change will not affect paid subscribers. They will continue to receive unlimited access to all our online content and our digital edition. We are sending out e-mails to our subscribers with more information, and will also be providing additional information in our daily e-newsletter. Some stories will still be available on our site, and you’ll be able to read five articles per month before these restrictions apply.

The monthly cost for a digital-only subscription is roughly equivalent to the price of a single print copy of the News Journal at the newsstand. We hope you think that’s a pretty good deal, and that we’ve made enough improvement to the paper over the past few months that you are willing to join us on our journey to be the business publication of record in Delaware.

We are also working on the October issue of STUFF: Made and Built in Delaware.
Our October 2018 issue won an award from the Association of Area Business Publications and I’m very excited by the approach we’re taking for this one.

This magazine combines workforce-development content with examples of Delaware-made products that young people are helping build. Last year we focused on constructing and manufacturing; this year we’ll expand that to include hospitality and health care and expanding our audience to include students from sixth grade to college. We’ll explore a theme that “my kid is smart but just doesn’t seem to embrace school,” and focusing on the idea that there is a real need for smart workers with strong work ethics in these different “trades.” We’re trying to start a conversation between parents and children early enough to make a difference, given that many parents of kids this age are reluctant to let go of the “college dream.”

The idea is to show there are alternatives to attending four-year colleges right after high-school graduation, and that many of these companies offer great benefits and a future. I’m not going to tell you too much, but we’ll be providing case studies of workers at different ages who started in entry-level jobs and moved into leadership positions; the changing nature of apprenticeships; how government is supporting (or not supporting) the trades; and hot jobs for the next 10 years. In many cases, parents and students all see these as exhausting, hourly jobs where they often come home at night caked in mud and grease and exhausted. We hope to show you a different view.

If you think you might be able to contribute to this package, we’re working hard over the next week or two to finish this up. Drop me a note at [email protected] and we’ll see what we can do. I particularly would like any suggestions on cool products that are made here in Delaware.

And finally, a note about accountability.
Last week, we published our Fastest 50 Awards and it had a typo that flowed through most of the profiles. I believe that part of our job is to be transparent and hold other companies accountable (without being snarky or writing “gotcha” leads, so we should be accountable too. We fixed the error for the event (at no small cost), because that’s what you do when you make a mistake and can fix it. For those who saw the mistake and let us know on social media, thank you. For the rest of you, I’m sorry and we’ll try to do better in the future. 

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