My internship at the Detroit Public Schools taught me a great amount and left me hungry to do more. The department was very welcoming and very helpful. The Detroit Public School’s Communications Department is filled with dedicated experts. They share a common goal in making the schools great for the students. As I see it, however, the staff has suffered from severe cutbacks in recent years. So much so that the office where I was stationed was more than half empty. The staff often talked about all the projects they used to do when they had more manpower, but since, understandably so, they have cut down on their workload.
My specific department where I was utilized the most was the sports section. The severity of the monetary loss left the district’s ability to successfully cover its sports completely diminished. My internship at the Detroit Public Schools as a Sports Media Intern was a very eye-opening experience. I got a good look at the district’s losses, my boss, Alvin Ward, Deputy Executive Director of Health and Athletics, was left with no one at his disposal, I worked directly under him. Secondly I was used also by the public relations department occasionally as they too were exceedingly short staffed and in need of help.
During my time as the Sports Media Intern I was responsible for the most basic operations; like gathering scores from coaches, or making schedules for teams and brackets and posting on the school website covering the sport functions. I was given these measly tasks for many reasons; firstly my bosses never trusted me with any delicate task, as I was just an intern, though I did gain more trust as my experience grew I was never sent to cover anything by myself. This was frustrating for me because I knew I was capable of more than I was being tasked with.
The most strenuous tasks I was ever utilized for were taking pictures at a press conference and writing a report on a donation the Detroit Public Schools received from UAW-Ford. Neither of which were ever published, in truth I am unsure if my boss even looked at them or just skimmed over them. Another reason I believe I was tasked with so little was because the cutting down of manpower made the current staff overwhelmed. This overwhelming led them to cut out a lot of programs, in my opinion they cut out too much, the remaining programs give very little to the public and are seem to be focused on internal communication. The public sees a weekly online newspaper and the occasional damage control the public relations of the Detroit Public Schools is plagued with.
In the sports department where I spent most of my time a lot of the work I had was reporting scores and keeping track of league standings. A daunting task because of it was often quite difficult to keep contact with so many coaches. One time I had two different sources reporting two completely opposite winners of a certain game. Monitoring and posting on the website kept me busy as well. As an intern I would have liked to do more, I was brought in to try and replace the work one employee did. The man who held the position before me did several projects, his most popular one was a weekly article on a student athlete. I always thought I could try and write the article, but I never really had the opportunity. A lot of my work, the fast majority was deskwork, I had very few opportunities to go to the schools or write articles unfortunately.
When I did leave the office I often covered a public relations event. Once I took pictures of a state representative supporting a funding for a particular school, another time I covered a donation from UAW-Ford. These taught me a lot about the correct way to report on those. I interviewed students, teachers, parents, employees, and really felt like a real reporter.
The memory I will always have was how happy one student was when a pool was donated to her school. She told me she had only ever been swimming a handful of times and was so excited to get to experience the pool. Occasionally I would feel like a burden, the short staff was almost always very busy. I found a lot of my experience came from working with other team members instead of asking my boss for direction.
The internship taught me an incredible amount of public relations. Firstly, donations usually have some ulterior motive attached. When UAW-Ford made a contribution to the Detroit Public Schools they also broadcast that they sent the contribution. When the major of Detroit was supposed to come to one of the schools to support a nutritious meal plan and did not show up, neither did the other members of government.
I learned that when something went wrong, when the scandal about the five principles stealing money from the already depleted school system broke, that while The Detroit Public School’s Press Secretary, Chrystal Wilson, was upset, she did not see this scandal as a catastrophe, she saw it as an opportunity. That is the most important lesson I learned at the Detroit Public Schools throughout my internship.
All in all the Detroit Public Schools taught me a lot of things, I do wish I had more responsibility, but as an intern I’m not surprised I was not given my own individual projects to work on.