Melanie Coulson, senior editor at the Ottawa Citizen, gives tips to prospective newsroom interns on how to make a great impression during an interview.

By Melanie Coulson

Recently I was contacted by a candidate who had been short-listed for the Ottawa Citizen’s year-long internship opportunities.

(Note: all our interns are paid positions. Understatement: This has become a hot topic recently.)

(Also to note: If you’re entering the newsroom as an intern this summer or fall, here are a few tips I blogged about last year.)

Okay, enough notes, back to the point of this post…

I’m not on the hiring committee for these positions, but I was impressed that this candidate was doing his homework and felt comfortable reaching out to me. This was, after all, the kind of ‘cold call’ he’d be required to do on the job should he be hired.

This person’s questions were simple, but direct: how had past candidates ‘wowed’ me in interviews? And what about the top interns, what sets them apart?

Here’s how I answered:


“Speaking from personal experience, I am most ‘wowed’ by candidates/interns who:

  •  Have multimedia experience (video, photos, and more)
  •  Understand of alternate story forms, when/how to use them (storify, Q&As, etc)
  •  Show an interest in data journalism, mapping
  •  Exhibit a doggedness to get the story – to be first, and right
  • Want to leave the newsroom at any and all opportunity – the story is out there
  • Have the maturity to understand that the biggest story of a reporter’s career is often the worst day of someone’s life.

I’m sure there are more, but that’s a start. Hope these help.”

Naturally, these attributes are also shown by the most impressive journalism students I’ve encountered.

What have I missed? Add yours below.


Melanie Coulson is the first Michener-Deacon Fellow for journalism education and Senior Editor at the Ottawa Citizen. This piece was originally posted on her site and has been republished here with Coulson's permission.