PBS Internship Explores Media and the American Experience

Ally Troy

When the year began, I – like everyone else in the world – had no clue where it would take me. As we entered January, I was very hopeful in what the new year would bring me and was ready to dedicate the time and effort in finishing my last year in school. After coming back from a successfully planned trip to Europe for a close friend who also had graduated from Kennesaw in the fall, I had the motivation to get through the next two semesters, graduate, and transition into a new phase of my life and career. I had my course schedule set for the spring 2020 semester and was excited to learn for my last semester of fall 2020, I would only need to take a couple of anthropology courses and an internship. Since it was only January, I decided that I didn’t need to worry about finding an internship at that moment and I had time to find one for the upcoming semester. But little did I know that the state of the world would be flipped entirely in just a matter of weeks that would affect everyone including me.

By the mid-point of the spring 2020 semester, the conditions of the country and the world was drastically changed, and the new way of life began to bring challenges for everyone. Seemingly overnight, we went from a normally functioning world, to a world that was experiencing a global pandemic that left majority of the population to quarantine in their homes for an undetermined amount of time. This lockdown required many non-essential businesses to close down and large institutions to also shut down to keep people from spreading and contracting the virus. As expected, Kennesaw decided to close their doors for the rest of the semester, leaving all the students and faculty to facilitate school via online. At this time, regarding my next semester, I was still confident I would take my classes and find an internship by the start of August, if the world would ever get there. So, I went through the rest of the spring semester dealing with the transition to online school and guaranteeing good grades while enjoying the extended stay at home. Once I finished the semester with acceptable grades and realized I had the summer off, I decided to focus on working and relaxing through a time of global uncertainty.

But as I entered the last half of the summer, the simmering heat of responsibility began to rise as August was approaching us. By this time, I knew I had to start looking for an internship since it would be a lengthy process of searching, applying, going through the acceptance process and then registering it with Kennesaw. The only problem was that due to the unexpected lockdown, most of the institutions I initially wanted to apply for were closed for in person contact and was unsure of when they would be open. Because of my major, I originally searched for internships that were focused on anthropological work such as museum positions to do various jobs such as archiving, historical research, and curating. But since all of the positions were located in public institutions, I begin to feel hopeless as I received emails from applied positions explaining that their location was closed, and it was unknown when they would be opening back up for the public as well as the staff. The frustration and stress to find an internship during a global shut down resulted in me spending countless hours on handshake and other internship-finding platforms, scrolling through positions that met the expectations of myself, the school, and the no-contact state of the world.

With my handshake updated and minutes away from falling asleep, I decided to end one of my nights in early August by scroll through handshake and quickly apply for things that piqued my interest. By this time, the roles I were looking for changed from my original plans, and I was now looking for positions that were remote and involved work in either non-profit organizations or media. In my anthropology courses, since I always had an interest in cultural anthropology, specifically ethnography, I decided that I could look into finding a position in the media entertainment field that required a lot of culture and historic research for content creation or media production. With this in mind, I immediately stopped scrolling when I saw the position of “Outreach Production Intern” for an unheard company called RadicalMedia LLC and because it said I met all the requirements, I decided to look more into it since I had nothing else going for me.

As I started reading what the role would involve, I began to get curious as to why and how this opportunity fell into my lap. The overview of the role immediately began with asking if anyone was interested in storytelling and helping this company tell the stories of Americans across the country. After this, it informed the reader that the intern would be involved in the outreach productions of a new internet and tv special called American Portrait, and the intern’s job would include reaching out to people from across the country and get them to participate for the special, as well as other roles such as editing and content production. The more I read into the description, the giddier I was becoming. I had finally found an internship that looked promising from every aspect, and all it required was for me to apply for it. That night I sent in my application and hoped I would get a response in the following days.

While waiting for a response, I decided to do some research on the company that I had recently applied for. Upon looking at the RadicalMedia website, I realized that I stumbled onto something unheard of and extremely amazing. Of course, RadicalMedia was a media production company, but I had no idea what type of media they actually produced. But by looking at the website, it seemed that RadicalMedia had produced everything and anything. They had work with major fashion corporations like Nike, Adidas, Vans, collaboration work with celebrities and Google products, music videos, documentaries on National Geographic, helped with the production of the internationally known Broadway show of Hamilton and even created a heartwarming ad for Dial soap that I had seen on tv weeks before. The list of their work was endless and unmatched and by this point, I was dying for them to accept my application. And not long after looking into the company, I got an email from Steve S., one of the Intern supervisors informing me that he had looked over my application and wanted to set up an interview to talk more. Hearing this, all of the stress that built over the course of the unpredicted past months were wildling away, each day.

In my interview with Steve, he began by asking me why I had applied for the position and why it interested me. I explained to him that being an anthropology major had caused me to love ethnographic practices such as storytelling and documentaries, and ethnographic journalism for media productions was a role I recently found out existed and wanted to learn more. After a quick conversation about why producers at RadicalMedia wanted students that were involved in social science fields like anthropology and entertainment fields like film for their new project, Steve began talking about the project the interns would be working on. The production was called American Portrait, and it was a collaborated project with RadicalMedia and PBS to conduct informal interviews with Americans from across the country about what it was like to be an American today. The project would involve people creating media content such as videos, photos and writings to answer prompts of various humanistic topics like community, work, family, and social issues, and for interns, we would essentially be the middlemen, contacting people from different parts of the country and getting them to participate. Steve explained that this project was in the early stages of production and the interns would have an amazing time participating because their work could potentially be put on tv when the special was aired on PBS in the following year. After we talked, Steve told me that he would email me the rest of the details and when the internship would start. From that point, I was officially an intern at RadicalMedia, about to start working on an amazing project that would greatly affect my career.

So now, as we are entering the last month of my internship, I felt that it was a great time to reflect on the experience I had with working with RadicalMedia on the PBS project. Overall, I would say I had an amazing time working on this project and I will forever remember my time as an intern. Entering the internship, I had no previous experience with any entertainment industry company, and it was my first time working on a media project. Regardless of this, Steve taught us about our duties equally and reassured us that whatever educational background we were pursing, it was vital for the overall need for the role. Jumping into the deep end, our duties were to find 10 stories each month on the three topics we were assigned, and have participants create videos answering prompts about our topics. To do this, it would involve us in heavy outreaching through email, phone, social media platforms and anyway we could think of. We would also have opportunities to submit our own stories and work on other parts of production if it was needed. From the start, Steve expected us to fully commit to finding our stories and overall embody our roles, something I was definitely willing to do.

Typical workday for me.

But soon after starting I realized how big of a challenge it would be. Because I didn’t have any past experiences of outreaching, I was unaware of how hard it was and quickly got a reality check on the time and dedication I had to spend on my internship. When outreach is involved, it requires heavy acts of contacting lots of people. This meant endless searches on google, Facebook, Instagram and other web platforms to find people and convince them to participate. Before this, I had never experienced much rejection, but within this internship I found out I would constantly be told no or get no responses from people I contacted and eventually I had to learn that the key to this internship was to keep reaching out, keep convincing people that it was an amazing opportunity to be a part of this project, get over the rejection and if you do, you will eventually get people to want to participate. I had troubles dealing with this in the first couple of weeks and the constant rejection was causing me to doubt myself and if I was able to do it. Luckily, after talking to Steve and him reassuring me that it was normal to feel frustrated with the rejection, I decided I would continue my outreach with more dedication to finding stories. 

From then, the enjoyment of my internship began to grow as well as my love for what I was doing. Though the rejection was hard to deal with, the greatest thing was when people were interested in participating. From their enthusiasm to be on the project and realizing that it was a great way to help individuals express who they were and what made them unique, I started to love reaching out. I reached out every chance I got, at work, at home, on the weekends, at night, with friends, friends of friends, coworkers and distant strangers. I enjoyed getting different topics each month and having to figure out how I would go about finding individuals that fit the story. It has given me the opportunity to look into different groups within different communities that I didn’t know existed, and how people approach the same topic differently. Plus, by having Steve show us how our participants’ submissions were going to be involved in many internet specials and tv specials for American Portrait, it reconfirmed how important my work was for the production and it was that satisfying feeling that kept me going.

Check out the trailer here! https://www.pbs.org/american-portrait/series/preview/preview-10-pbs-american-portrait-trailer

Also, from working on this project, I have been in contact with crewmembers on the show who are involved with other parts of production and they have offered more ways for interns to get involved further into the project. I have gotten to record extra footage that will be used for the show, which I will be credited for, and I am currently working with the content production group helping them sort through all of the videos to create featured collections on the website and for the television specials. Personally, I love how engaging seasoned staffers who work with RadicalMedia or PBS are with the interns and how willing they are to let interns be a part of other areas of the show to teach them what goes into a media production like American Portrait. From being able to participate in outreach as well as content production, I learned how much work is involved in content making and how many roles are crucial to producing something that will be enjoyed by millions of people.

It has also made me more aware of how necessary anthropology is within a field like entertainment. The entirety of the project is centered of the humanistic view of America and how people from varying backgrounds view the world in different perspectives but ultimately have similar experiences. Like in anthropology, it is a way to learn about the lives of groups, communities, and individuals, listen and record their stories and reflect on the human experience. It’s a non-traditional but new way of practicing ethnographic methods such as informal interviews, cross-cultural referencing, and research though the advancements of technology. This experience also causes reflection on past anthropological courses since we are dealing with a country-wide population of potential participants. Our topics let us reflect on a particular communities’ societal past and how they’ve been overall shaped by society. I have definitely relied back to the teachings in classes such as Cultural Diversity in the U.S., Human Variation, Methods of Anthropology and Cultural Anthropology when I am writing about how my work is related to my degree.

Check out my own submission to American Portrait here! https://www.pbs.org/american-portrait/story/17620/alexandra-t-loganville-ga-a-days-work-is

My time at my internship was unmatched to anything that I would have ever thought I would be doing. At the beginning of the year, I was sure that I would be in an anthropological internship that involved museum work, and at the time, it was what I wanted to pursue. But from the twist of fate, the pandemic and having to work remotely has led me into another career path that includes new and innovative anthropological practices in the fields of visual anthropology, journalism, and media production. My future career goals now involve getting into media production research and being able to work on an array of entertainment projects to provide an anthropological perspective on film, tv, and internet content. I am very grateful of what this internship has done in the long run of my career and has steered me to a path where I would find fulfillment in pursing,

I would recommend this program to anyone that is interested in looking at a new perspective of cultural anthropology. This was very different from what I was originally looking for, but in the long-term I am grateful that I found it. It’s perfect for students who would enjoy adding an anthropological view on entertainment and media content or those who like film, documentaries, and talking about current social issues. Like any intern, I am hoping a job offer does come from this opportunity but if not, I will still cherish how this internship how grown me both professionally and personally. During an uncertain time in the world, this internship has brought much joy, confidence, and skill building to myself and my career, and I will be forever contented with my experience in with RadicalMedia, PBS, and working on American Portrait.

Remote Internship Connects Art History and Anthropology

Shafaa Lang

This image is of a Siberian kitchen . The demon faces throughout the images are intriguing. Shamanism is a common practice amongst indigenous in Siberia which makes me wonder if the demon dragon faces are affiliated with Shamanism.

When I started college back in 2012, my major was Art History, but I ended dropping out due to some issues in school. In 2016, I started to go to community college and took up Liberal Arts. During my time in community college, I picked up a book called “Everyone is African” by Daniel J. Fairbanks and it was then that I fell in love with the study of Anthropology. After that I started reading different books like “Living Color: The Biological and Social Meaning of Skin Color” by Nina Jablonski and “Gun, Germs, and Steel” by Jared Diamond which really inspired me to study Anthropology. Anthropology was the prefect way to combine my love for History and Science.

This image is of an indigenous Siberian person, more than likely painted by someone non-indigenous.

 Before actively looking for an internship, I did not think that it would be hard to find one. Little did I know, it required more work than I thought. I got in contact with several different organizations and not one responded back to me. It is my belief that it was due to things being shut down because of the pandemic. This was very discouraging, but Dr. Gooding presented us with a remote opportunity called Endangerred Archives Programme which made things a whole lot easier.  Endangerred Archives Programme supports the preservation of cultural archives from different regions throughout the world. Their goal is to digitize these archives while keeping the original copy in its country of origin. I was very intrigued because I never knew that you could do Anthropology work from home right from your computer and with having a father who is disabled it would allow me to cut my time away from home because I also work a full-time job.

This is a typical workday. I am working on identifying appropriate keywords for an image. 

During this internship, I learned so much! I believe that this will strengthen my resume. It also shows that I have familiarity with archival work which could be good when applying to work at museums.  My Research Methods and Cultural Anthropology classes during my time at KSU gave me the knowledge necessary to make it through this internship, especially Research Methods with Dr. Lundy. Learning about different research methods and how to collect data is important in ethnographic research or fieldwork.

A picture of indigenous men of Siberia.  

The internship taught me patience and it has even taught me how to stay focused without having a boss looking directly over what I do.  If I could change anything, it would be the timing. I do not have the support from my parents which makes it hard to do an internship because I must work full-time to live. Having a job and doing an internship was ridiculously hard for me to balance, but overall, I enjoyed the experience!

  My internship was to help make it easier for people to find images of 19th and 20th century Southern Siberia indigenous peoples by giving each image keywords which is like an identification marker.  These images are digitized archives. The original archives are safe in the region origin that they came from.  In my work, I had to do my own research about the culture to be able to put keywords that made sense. What this internship taught me is that Siberia has a deep history and that the people there find it especially important to preserve their cultural heritage. Similar to the Americas, outsiders did come in and take over, this led to a fight for cultural preservation for the Siberian people.  Learning about the culture made me really want to travel to Siberia. This internship has also inspired me to pursue a future career in Cultural Anthropology and I look forward to applying what I have learned here at KSU. I would love to travel and live amongst different groups of people to study their culture. I strongly believe that travelling and learning about different cultures around the world can help you find yourself.

Digital Internship During the Covid-19 Pandemic

Adrienne Goodwyn

Coming into this internship I was a little scared. This was happening during Covid-19 and I was worried about if I was going to be able to get an internship. It was one of the last things I needed to graduate in the fall, so I was very stressed out about if I would be able to find one or not.

Around June of 2020 I received an email for a digital internship categorizing Siberian photographs on a website called Zooniverse. This website works with countries who have a hard time keeping their documents, pictures, etc. protected. Zooniverse also works with the Endangered Archives program, which the countries get in contact with before their documents show up on the Zooniverse website. When I got the email, I was very excited. I was glad that not only would I be able to work safe from home, but I would also be able to set my own schedule. This also worked well for me because during the fall I had three other classes as well, so having to ride out to an internship site, commute to school/do my school work, and work at my part-time job would have been difficult to juggle. This internship was the best outcome for me.

During the start of my internship I realized how easy it would be to get distracted. I live with my family and partner, so there were many opportunities to get distracted. However, even with those distractions I made myself concentrate, so I could put 100% of my time into these pictures. Even though I was one of around 100 volunteers, I still wanted to put effort into my work. This was something the people in Siberia did not have the time or resources to do themselves, so I knew my work was going to be helpful. In September I ran into a problem. I started getting pictures I had already categorized. I would have to constantly refresh the page, to try and make a new picture some up. After almost a week of this problem I asked my advisor if I could change Zooniverse projects. There were many others that needed volunteers, so I thought a switch would still be helpful. After I got the okay, I started on a project called Fossil Atmospheres, where I had to mark stomatal cells in plant cells. Both of these projects felt rewarding to me. I realized this archiving is fun and interesting even if it is tedious to do.

I believe the classes I took during the Spring semester of 2020 helped me with this internship the most. When writing my theme papers, I was able to draw on techniques from my Research Methods class, as well as my Human Origins class to help me with my research. After college I would like to work at a museum or even the Botanical Gardens, and I think the work I did in my internship will build the way towards those jobs. This was a rewarding experience for me and I am glad, that even in the midst of Covid, I was able to receive my Zooniverse internship.

Hidden History: A Library of Congress Virtual Internship

Adrianna Dunn

I started this year with a complete plan leading to my graduation. My practicum requirements were going to be fulfilled this Summer 2020.  I was accepted to be a Research Assistant for Dr. Smith’s Greek Osteology Research Project. But four weeks in Greece turned to eight weeks at home in Connecticut with the onset of the Covid-19 pandemic.

As the research trip was cancelled and more internships became unavailable, I was unsure as to if I would be able to meet my graduation goal. Luckily, I received an email from Dr. Gooding that contained a virtual internship opportunity that I could complete from home. The internship would be volunteering to transcribe online materials for the institution of my choice. I chose to be a Library of Congress volunteer. Virtually transcribing materials was not how I had expected my internship to be. I had expected my internship to be more hands-on and interacting with multiple people. Though it was not what I had expected, I was glad that I would still be able to graduate when I planned.

To volunteer for the Library of Congress, began with creating a personal account in By the People. By the People is the application by which volunteers can keep track of the materials they transcribe and review. Transcription was needed so that the materials could be preserved and available for search engines and the public. Before I could register for the internship, I had to show that I would be able to complete the work required. I transcribed one of the documents and submitted proof that it was accepted. That was the beginning of my virtual internship.

By the People transcribing portal.

The materials were in different campaigns that the Library of Congress posted. Materials included handwritten and typed papers, legal documents, letters, and even diary entries. Some documents were even from people during the Revolutionary War. Most of my work was self-guided. The Library of Congress provided a How to Transcribe guide, but other than that I was mostly on my own. It was different from other types of internships, as I mostly supervised myself.

I was able to set what times I would transcribe, and review, and I was able to fit time in with my other summer classes. The internship requirement of 150 hours was still in place, so I had to be on top of the time that I needed to work. I was able to break my time up into shifts. Though most of the material was interesting, such as, the drafts of Mary Church Terrell, an African American and Women’s rights activist, it could become tedious to be sitting and transcribing for five hours a day.

Mary Church Terrell paper circa 1897.

Breaking up the time I worked and taking breaks helped me stay focused and not feel as though it was dull. Transcribing every day for eight weeks can definitely feel tiresome. There were some days that I dreaded going back to the computer and looking at more papers. I had to be extremely dedicated and manage my time well.

Over the coming weeks I became better at transcribing and understanding different styles of writing and script. There were stories of different interactions that were enjoyable to read. Creativity was needed to complete the required internship assignments and papers. Since this was a virtual internship, I had to find ways that it could apply to anthropology and what I was learning from it.

I gained access to stories that are not often available in history books or websites. In addition, I could read individuals’ personal writings and thoughts that provided a more complete view of the culture and ideas of that time. Working as a virtual volunteer, I was able to provide completed materials for future research purposes and community access. I gained a better understanding of how historical materials are preserved. It was an interesting look into archival work and public institutions.

Boston newspaper circa 1833-1916.

By completing this virtual internship, I became better at analyzing and connecting materials to anthropology. I was able to learn methods for transcribing and I can now list transcribing as a skill on my resume. I was able to gain better time management and complete the hours at my own pace.  I gained experience with transcribing and found out that I do not want to focus on similar work in the future. I learned more about my work preferences and that I want to work in an environment with opportunities to be active and have more hands-on projects.

There are many benefits to transcribing for the Library of Congress. The ability to set a schedule is great for anyone that has other responsibilities or classes. Transcribing is also a transferable skill and is a notable contribution to a resume or CV. Access to historical materials can enhance cultural understanding and give context to past stories, as well as be more readily available for the public and community use. Though the work can be tedious at times, volunteering virtually is a great option for anyone looking for an internship that they can complete at home.

Transcribing Historical Documents for the Smithsonian Institution

Abby Hill

I was originally planning to intern with a funeral home during the summer, however due to COVID-19 restrictions, they told me they could no longer employ me. Dr. Gooding was kind enough to send me a link to an Atlanta Journal Constitution article about how you can combat boredom at home with volunteering to transcribe with different organizations. After going through Handshake and applying to several different places and not finding anything, I decided to look at the Smithsonian’s and the National Archive’s websites. I chose the Smithsonian because it seemed easier to understand, they provided instructions, and a way to track your time. I was optimistic about the internship after doing an hour trial run of the site and decided that I would do this as my Summer 2020 internship. This type of internship is not what I had in mind initially, but in order to graduate on time, I needed the credit.

            One thing I learned quickly is that to perform well in an online internship, you need to understand how you work best. If you have trouble scheduling your time, managing yourself, or motivating yourself, then an online internship might not work for you. For an online internship like this, I had no direct supervisor or anyone telling me to do x number of hours a day for x many weeks. I would like to say that I am disciplined but I had a hard time consistently working. I had a four-week summer course all throughout June, which took up a lot of my time and energy. And once I was done with reading, writing, and doing homework for my class, I did not really want to sit at my computer for another few hours transcribing.

            I think this internship would be the most enjoyable for people who are interested in linguistic anthropology, a specific collection of documents, or a certain time period in history. If you are interested or passionate about what you are transcribing, that would help the time pass quicker. For the most part, once I got over the hurdle of two or three hours, I could find a productive energy and work for long periods of eight to ten hours. There were still days where I struggled to focus and stay motivated, but what helped me the most was adhering to the schedule I had made. Seeing my days mapped out with the hours I would need to transcribe along with other things like meetings, chores, homework, etc. helped me to visualize the amount of work that I was doing and how it was all adding up in the end.

            One aspect of this internship that I appreciated the most was the portability. I could use my phone as an internet hotspot for my laptop when I did not have Wi-Fi so I could still work. For example, I used this method to transcribe while riding in the car for a few hours. The availability to do this internship whenever I felt like it or had time was another thing that I enjoyed. If I found that I had a spare hour or two, I could log on and work until I had to get off. That level of flexibility is perfect for people who are busy with classes or for those who cannot work a 9 to 5 job. Doing an online internship allows you to create your own schedule that works for you.

            Transcribing aids in public understanding of historical events and everyday life. The public can open their eyes and gain a new perspective about the way our culture has changed throughout time just by reading some letters between parents and their daughter. A good example of this is the Doris Blake collection, which are letters that describe normal happenings in the parent’s lives that they are explaining to their daughter. One specific cultural detail that I remember is Doris’s mother concerned about why an Irish catholic woman moved into a house down the street. She criticized the woman and said that their neighborhood did not need a person like that. Before taking Historical Archaeology with Dr. Powis, I did not know that people in America actively hated Irish immigrants, and it is not talked about often, so it was surprising to read. This instance was very satisfying to me because I could directly connect what I have learned in school with something outside of class.

            A fun thing about this internship was when I told people that my internship was transcribing historical documents for the Smithsonian, everyone was shocked and amazed. It also is fulfilling to have been a part of something that I think is important. Transcribing is essential for preserving historic documents that would be lost to time eventually. Due to the spread of COVID-19, the way people interact with museums may change forever. These institutions now have to digitize everything in order to provide the public with a way of accessing the collections. The first step to doing this, which most large institutions have already begun, is to scan documents, pictures, and digitize audio files. To be someone who promotes continued learning in the face of a pandemic is very rewarding.

The above picture is what my screen looked like as I transcribed. The document window is on the left, which you can zoom in or out or move using a mouse. The transcription box is on the right and is the larger box. Once a volunteer clicks onto the transcription box, it locks so only that volunteer can edit the transcript at a time. Inside the box, you simply type what you can read from the document. Sometimes this is nearly impossible because of really intense handwriting or fading. The Smithsonian made it a rule to simply transcribe what you can see because any amount of words that you can transcribe is more than what was there just a minute ago. The notes box is the smaller box on the right where volunteers can write comments to other volunteers, the staff at the Smithsonian, or just about the document in general.

            But here are some specific tips I found to be useful in doing this internship. First, use a mouse instead of the track pad on a laptop. You have more control with zooming in on the document and it made everything so much easier once I transitioned. Second, really read the general instructions and the specific instructions for each project- some will have advanced instructions depending on the documents. Some volunteers do not seem to read any instructions and will transcribe whole paragraphs incorrectly, but when that happened to me I would put in the notes box how to transcribe something difficult or “Per Smithsonian rules, you no longer need to indicate when something is underlined.” None of the instructions are hard to find and the general instructions are shown to every new volunteer. Lastly, take notes while you are working so you can refer to them later when you have to do your journal entries and essays. Having specific examples of behavior, language, etc. can make doing the work so much easier and I wish someone would have told me that when I first started.

            I do not think I will ever have a job in this field. I am more interested in biological anthropology, but for someone who is interested in linguistics, I think this internship would be interesting and give you experience. As I transcribed, I noted how differently people write and form sentences and how it changed over time. Because I was only an online volunteer, I did not receive any job offers as a result of this internship from the Smithsonian, however I now have a full time position with the same funeral home that I was going to intern with originally. And while my internship is not relevant to the funeral industry, they were very impressed and happy that I was able to get the credit I needed to graduate. So although this was not the internship I had in mind originally, I am able to graduate and feel like I made a small difference in the world.