Ancient cats. Water pollution. Roman mosaics. Education for girls in Afghanistan. During the 10 weeks I spent as an intern at National Geographic, I had the opportunity to write about topics like these and many, many others.
Although I wasn’t really sure what to expect when I walked into the Nat Geo offices on the first day, the amazing editors and writers I was able to work with quickly helped me realize that this is exactly the kind of journalistic environment I hope to be in after graduating. Previous internships I’ve had—at places like USA TODAY and the Smithsonian Institution—helped me develop stronger writing techniques and a strong passion for reporting on history, culture and the environment. At National Geographic, I was able to dive deeper into these areas while working on pieces for both the website and print magazine.
Every morning starts at 9 a.m., but the work I do throughout each day varies. Typically, I attend a morning news meeting where editors gather together to discuss stories and projects going on throughout the day. After that, I could be reporting on a story for the website, researching new information for magazine pieces or scouting other ideas to pitch to editors at the digital desk or the magazine. Writing for the web usually means quick turnarounds, so learning how to accurately synthesize scientific articles on tight deadlines was a good learning experience for me. When working on pitches for the magazine—where issues are planned extremely far in advance—I also quickly learned how difficult it can be to get even one little blurb of text in print. By the end of the internship, I did manage to get a couple small magazine pieces approved, in addition to having reported on more than 30 stories for the website. Some of my favorite pieces I worked on allowed me to talk to people from all over the world, and one story in particular even led me to travel through Virginia’s Historic Triangle to gather research and additional interviews.
Working one-on-one with editors was another really important aspect of this internship. There’s an interesting dynamic between the print and digital sides of National Geographic’s publications, and being able to observe and interact with editors on both platforms every day helped me better understand how they work together on different stories and projects. Editors at other publications in Washington, D.C. also proved to be significant this summer. Each week, our small cohort of D.C. interns was able to have insightful conversations with newsroom leaders around the city, which definitely helped us learned more about the work happening at a variety of publications in the magazine world outside of New York City.