Internship Spotlight: Athina Khalid

As a U3 History & Cultural studies student, my research interests include: the history of Montreal, the history of activism, and the interaction between media and culture. My primary extracurricular interest is journalism. I have worked at student newspapers at all post-secondary institutions I have attended: I was Editor in Chief of The Plant at Dawson College, and worked as Features Editor and later News Editor at The McGill Daily. I had done some work with CKUT through The Daily, and was interested in applying for the Arts Internship Award to intern at CKUT’s Community News Department when I discovered that it was a possibility.

CKUT is McGill’s campus-community radio station. Through its programming, the station aims to provide a platform for various community organizations. The Community News Department aims to produce news shows free from corporate interest that highlight questions of interest to non-normative communities. As one of the few organizations in Montreal with a community news department, CKUT provides a rare and essential service. Through my internship, I wanted to use the skills I have learnt through past experience at student publications to help produce news shows that cover topics that would otherwise be left unreported.

Initially, my primary responsibility was to produce the Friday edition of Off the Hour, CKUT’s flagship news program, and I was to additionally update the Off the Hour blog and do other such tasks. However, within the first few weeks of my internship, my internship supervisor and I decided it would be best to produce an in-depth show that would delve into the underreported impacts of COVID-19. As I began to work on No New Normal, the series started to take up most of my time and energy, leaving little space for other projects, but my internship supervisor and I thought it best to concentrate on the show.

Highlights of my internship include some of the interviews I did for No New Normal, and receiving positive feedback from members of affected communities after listening to the show. Through the internship, I improved my skills as an interviewer, learnt how to edit audio using software such as Audition, and became more comfortable with working independently. All of these skills will be very useful in future jobs in journalism, as it is an industry that relies increasingly on freelance work. Having worked at CKUT shows my continued interest in journalism, and No New Normal serves as an example of my work. Furthermore, I intend to submit episode two of No New Normal for national journalism awards and, if the judges deem it worthy, having journalism awards would undoubtably be proof of my capabilities.

One of the aspects I was most looking forward to when I applied for the internship was working at the CKUT office. Given that journalism relies so heavily on freelancing, I was looking forward to working in an office and with others. I am also interested in the technology of radio and in CKUT’s archives, and was hoping to have a chance to spend some time discovering both aspects of the station. However, due to the pandemic, the station was closed, and my internship took place remotely. I was, of course, glad to have a job and funding nonetheless, especially given how difficult finding work was this summer, but I found working remotely quite challenging, especially given the online semester that preceded my internship and the impacts of quarantine throughout the summer. Though important, I also found covering the negative impacts of COVID-19 on those most affected personally difficult, since it continually drew my attention to how dire the situation was. To counteract the challenges of remote working, I met my internship supervisor weekly in a park. I found this helped structure my time and encourage a greater degree of accountability. I also found that having a designated workspace in my apartment helped. I found doing interviews remotely difficult, because there is less feedback when interviewing someone on the phone rather than in person. To help with that, I went to demonstrations and social-distanced events held by relevant organizations and tried to have lengthier pre-interview calls to build trust between myself and the interviewee.

The funding helped me cover basic expenses. As a result, I did not have to look for another job or find other sources of income while working a time-consuming internship. I appreciated being able to concentrate my efforts on this project thanks to the Arts Internship Award, and I am sure that the skills I learnt through this internship will serve me well in future jobs in the field.

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