VINCENZO FERRARA found out about a paid internship at The New York Times the day after applications closed: but he kept phoning, and eventually a staffer in America invited him to fly out for a week’s work experience – and even paid half the costs. He raised the rest from contacts he’d made as an international ice hockey player. He tells the story here:
I just kept calling them, and they kept telling me “no”. I was so persistent they put me through to America and I managed to get a Skype interview with one of the guys. After about four Skype calls he put me on the induction weekend, but it was off his own back. And then, in early January he calls and says I owe £3,500. You’ve got to pay for everything while you’re there. I realised at that point why they always pick Oxbridge people. I explained my situation and he just put half of the money from his own salary into it. And friends paid the rest – I’ve met quite a few journalists who live and work in NY and San Francisco, where I’ve got friends from ice hockey. I made myself a walking charity and managed to raise the money.
I flew out and got chauffeured to the hotel. We had to bring a black suit, a grey suit and a blue suit, brown and black shoes – polished – and white shirts. Everything else you could customise. You got told to wear certain suits on certain days.
The first day, we were told, “While you’re in these meetings don’t have your phone on.” Within the first day, one guy at Oxford just decided he was going to go on his phone. They asked him to stop, then he got it back out and they said, “Okay, can you get your bags, we’ll be sending you home tonight.” He was gobsmacked. When he left he wasn’t overly fussed about leaving. They got very stern on people looking out of the window, even.
Some of the American rules got explained to us: they said if the American government don’t want you to publish something and they give you a warning, you don’t publish it. They also said that anywhere Obama is in the world, all the phones get monitored within 100 miles. That amazed us.
The rest wasn’t too difficult to anywhere I worked.
It lasted four working days. It was very quick. They told me pre-trip, ” You’re going to see a lot, learn a lot, and you’re not going to take it in.” It wasn’t until I got back that it clicked and it all made sense. Some of it was basic stuff you get taught at uni but don’t appreciate until you see it in a working environment: always have a pen so you can write on your arm; always have a phone.
If anything it’s made me want to become a journalist more, ideally in a big news organization. It enhanced the thirst for the job, for the life.
Vincenzo chose to take time out from the BA Journalism and Media course for the 2015-16 year to take on paid work at the BBC, mainly at his local radio station in Cambridge. He had already gained professional experience through his course, working shifts at BBC Oxford and BBC Coventry and Warwickshire.