What I learned during my Olympics internship at Yahoo
While covering the Olympics in a foreign country presents logistical challenges, working at home in Canada to manage the deluge of content coming in from the Sochi Games had its own set of challenges. Ryerson journalism student Alex Chippin shares what he learned on his internship at Yahoo Canada Sports.
By Alex Chippin
In school, an “A” is a great mark. In the workforce, that’s the standard. Therein lies the greatest difference between the two worlds.
I learned that quickly during my six-week internship at Yahoo Canada Sports, where I was part of the 2014 Winter Olympics coverage team. I wrote my first story on the Canadians that were under the most pressure to win a medal, and I felt it was really well done. I was wrong. The piece wasn’t bad, but it wasn’t top notch, meaning it wasn’t good enough. Four drafts later, it finally met the standard.
Chasing perfection is the greatest challenge, but it’s also the greatest thrill. At Yahoo, we don’t chase perfection for ourselves–we chase it for the thousands of people that are a click away from reading our work.
After those six weeks, I left my internship with improved writing skills, a sharper journalistic mind and a greater understanding for how my industry works.
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Aside from writing four articles over the six weeks, two of which were featured on Yahoo’s home page, I was responsible for helping to keep the Olympics page updated. That included building package modules for the Olympics page by gathering an incoming story, finding a cover photo for it, writing a headline and deck line, and inserting related links below the deck line. It’s easier said than done with strict spacing requirements and a program that has a tendency not to save your work while news continues to pour in.
I frequently updated the Olympics headlines box, selecting which stories were worthy of being displayed in the ten available slots. By the time I’d finish one bunch, a slew of new wire stories would be waiting for me. I created slideshow photo galleries, a particularly important news form in today, where a picture better tell a thousand words because not many people are reading 1,000-word stories.
On weekdays, I moderated Yahoo’s live Internet chat about the daily happenings in Sochi. For the most part, it was manageable, but then there was the gold medal women’s hockey game. It felt like everyone in the world wanted to chime in at once when Marie-Philip Poulin miraculously tied and then won the game for Canada against Team USA.
Of all the potential challenges I knew I might face, sitting at a desk was not one I had even considered. Believe it or not, my internship was the first time I had to concentrate for eight straight hours, day after day.
Among the lessons Yahoo taught me, one of them is how to look for intriguing angles. Yes, the classic game story has its place in sports journalism, as does the long feature, but lighthearted articles can resonate with an audience, too. That’s why I wrote a piece on why figure skaters never get dizzy.
During my internship I was able to figure out the difference between group work and teamwork. In school, we do group work, where two or three people work side-by-side. At Yahoo, I worked individually to fulfill a part of the larger project. Frequent communication across the entire team is key. When everyone knows what everybody else is doing, the operation works very smoothly, and the team becomes a well-oiled machine.
Interning at Yahoo Canada Sports during the Olympics was enlightening and rewarding. For six weeks, I was a sponge trying to absorb as much information as I could. At the same time, I was able to confirm to myself that I had picked the right post-secondary program. As I explained it to a friend of mine, my internship was like meeting the love of my life, minus the part where I leave after six weeks.
Alex Chippin interned as Yahoo as part of a final-year elective course at Ryerson University’s Bachelor of Journalism program.
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