- The Washington Times - Friday, July 21, 2006

The irony of a good internship is that you get to do things that are going to take years to do again. This isn’t necessarily a bad thing. It’s the reason why being an intern can be such an invaluable experience. But it can also be a little maddening.

Not long ago I walked into my apartment after work, tossed The Washington Times on my desk, and pumped my fist in silent satisfaction at seeing my name on a byline. To a student of journalism, a byline on a major publication offers so much more than self-satisfaction.

It’s a ticket to the next stop in life.

Now in a few short weeks, I’ll finish up here in Washington and head back to the jail cell that my school newspaper calls a newsroom. No longer will I wring my hands in nervousness as an editor scans over my work.

I’ll be editing some freshman or sophomore who is trying to get clips so that they can try and get a byline with The Washington Times.

That’s the nature of college journalism. It’s a mad rat race to scrunch together clips and perfect resumes all in the hope of gaining another clip and adding another line to the resume. This might seem depressing, but it’s an inevitable race that every student of journalism has to run. However, too many college journalists approach this marathon as if it is as simple as adding numbers on a calculator.

They get an internship, and then they rush to get a byline so they can add it to their portfolio to send off to another internship. Life flies by and they don’t even blink.

In reality though, the best internships don’t just offer a byline. They offer a window into reality. No byline can trump the experience I get by watching the journalists around me craft together a story.

No byline can trump the conversations that take place with the person in the desk next to me. Life as an intern isn’t about rushing through time. I might just be able to leapfrog through life and beat everyone else to the same cubicle I held as an intern. But then what?

Then reality would surely set in and I’d realize that what’s important in life is not a line on a piece of paper. I’d realize that I’m in the same circular wheel that I was in during college, fighting some new person over the next rung. I’d realize how foolish it is to think that life doesn’t start until you’ve finished the race. Life is the race.

Josh Rutledge is in the Class of ‘08 at Samford University in Birmingham, Ala.

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