Recently I had the chance to interview my best friend about his experiences as an intern at the New York Times. During the summer of 2012, Kevin Kaplan was an intern copy-editor at the famous newspaper company located in the heart of New York City. Now a recent college graduate from the University of Illinois and Champaign-Urbana with a degree in journalism, Kevin wanted to pass down his experience and wisdom to any young, wanna-be writers and editors. Sit back college students; you’re in for a treat.
DJ: During your entire time at the NYT, what was the biggest thing you learned about the media world? and how is it going to help you in your future career?
KK: Being there gave me a very good sense of the state of print media. It’s not too hot right now. I’m not talking about quality, because The Times is still strong, if not the best, in that regard. So far, the worst year for print media was probably 2009, when I was an underclassman in college, and I believed that everything had more or less stabilized after that. But being at The Times, which is a trailblazer in the industry, showed me the print medium still has a lot of hurdles to overcome, and that gave me valuable perspective regarding my goals for the future.
DJ: What were some things the higher-ups at the NYT were brutality honest about?
KK: They were candid about the state of the industry (print media are in trouble), but there is always going to be work for the people who are the very best at what they do. The overall expectations were sky-high for their writers/reporters (I was an editor). If you’re not the best, you have to compensate by working extremely hard. Some of the worst writers (not just at The Times, but in general) are the most polite people I’ve worked with. They have to be good with people, or else they wouldn’t make it to a high level. Good writing is a treasured skill that is honestly very rare. If you are an above-average writer, there will definitely be work for you somewhere, if for no other reason than most people are so bad at it.