New Media Internship With Robin Good - Firsthand Report From A MasterNewMedia Intern
Daniele Bazzano contacted me via email to apply for the just re-opened MasterNewMedia Internship program, on Monday of last week. The next day, he had already been selected, among many, to be part of my extended virtual newsroom.
Daniele Bazzano - doing his internship at MasterNewMedia
Compared to the typical US guy (I have seen quite a few of these recently), who gets directed or recommended to me after having done a few blog stints here and there online, and generally thinks of knowing everything there is to know about web publishing, Daniele presented himself as he came from another planet.
No hype, no attempts to show off, no list of blogs where he had already worked at... furthermore the new candidate, something a typical American blogger would never humble himself to do, had no apparent hesitation in accepting an unpaid nine-months-long commitment even in the face of an airplane ticket he had already bought and a solid plan for moving to Milan that he had long communicated to all his friends and family.
Yet, the value of learning direct, with no intermediaries or books and directly from a team of active web publishing professionals made a whole world of difference to Daniele, who, nevertheless thorn by many doubts, questions and negative pressure from its social environment, had no hesitation in signing up and committing himself to this internship.
Daniele Bazzano's brief story, says already a million things about who I am looking for and what I have to offer in return. What strikes me the most is again, the huge difference between the typical US would be pro-blogger / web publisher and people like Daniele. The first one is most of the time way too sure of himself and of the publishing practices she wants to master. She has little humbleness, no curiosity, and great expectations for when and how much she is going to be paid. Daniele, on the other hand, is highly curious, full of questions, very humble and interested in the one thing that DOES make the difference: knowing, NOT getting the money now.
And so, as part of my initial training assignments with Daniele, I have actually asked him to write an article about his first 72 hours of internship here at MasterNewMedia.
How It All Began
William Shakespeare would probably say I am 'star-mark'd'. In the sense that what I'm going through these days had to happen.
On the morning of August 14th here in Catania was as hot as hell and I was probably supposed to be sunbathing by the sea next to my girlfriend. Or calling all my friends on their mobile to get ready for the usual ferragosto night on the beach. But, I had done it so many times I had got bored with it. So, I was having some coffee sitting in front of my laptop, instead. Plus, I'm not really the go-to-the-beach guy and summer is not my favorite season of the year, so I was way fine staying at home relaxing and web-surfing.
Just to spice up the day a bit, I thought I could listen to some new albums one of my friends had advised me, and have a look to all my RSS feed list to erase what I wasn't checking anymore. Obviously, while opening every one of them, I kept my eyes wide open for something worth noting. That's how I came across MasterNewMedia internship offer.
I had not open MasterNewMedia feed for quite some time, but right after two mouse scrolling I noticed Robin Good's post regarding the possibility to apply for an online course with him. His offer was a learn-by-doing approach to understand what blogosphere and Web 2.0 are really about and how to get the best out the two of them.
Blogs, wikis, social networks: I just knew I used them for much less than 2% of their possibilities, so the opportunity of an internship at MasterNewMedia sounded quite interesting. Moreover, I knew Robin Good for reading some of his articles in the past and seeing him as a guest at journalist Marco Montemagno's 'Reporter Diffuso' show on Sky Tg24.
The post was dated August 13th. It was just the day before, so I was right on time to apply for the internship. This opportunity at MasterNewMedia really seemed to match all my passions. Technology, New Media, communication studies at university and journalism. I also thought this experience could improve my English both in speaking and writing, so I thought I could give the internship a try and applied sending a letter and my resume to Robin Good.
I had very few hopes that sending this application to MasterNewMedia might turn up to end with something real. Since my 1st level degree in 2005 I had been sending tons of e-mails to apply for many different positions. I wasn't looking for the job of my life, but just something to help me live on. Nada. Not a reply. I even started wondering if my mail account worked properly. I was pissed-off and frustrated. I mean, come on, no-one was interested in having a talented 22-year-old guy at his service? God I was frustrated.
To make things worse, what was I supposed to do in the meantime? Just send resumes and chill out? No way. I kept on sending resumes but continued to write tech articles for Step1 (my university newspaper which I strongly contributed to gave birth and make grow) and attended the course to get the 2nd level degree as well.
Unfortunately, this meant to stay in Catania for another while. Yeah I know. One may think: "So? What's the matter with that? Why on Earth leaving a city by the sea where the lowest temperature in winter is 12°C?! This is crazy!" I get the point, but Catania is not just about hot temperatures and bikinis. It's about having no opportunities at all for young people, too.
Consider me as the perfect example. I wanna be a journalist, but there's just one newspaper here - La Sicilia. And that's not a lack of willingness which forbids Catania to have other ones. That's simply because there cannot be other competitors. Working as a journalist in Catania is kind of impossible unless you like to kiss asses for the rest of your life. And that's really not me at all.
But here is where Mr. Robin Good becomes part of the story. On August 16th I sent my first e-mail to MasterNewMedia at 4.08pm applying for the internship. Less than an hour later, I was already reading Robin asking me for a Skype meeting in the next few days. Hell, that was exciting. Not only had I received a feedback from him, but it had been very quick too!
I cannot hide I was quite nervous about that meeting with Robin. I wanted to make a good impression on him so he could choose me to be part of his team. I started wondering about the right words to say, the right way to introduce myself and so on. And, as I always do, I stopped about ten minutes later: "Oh, come on. This isn't getting me anywhere. I'll know what to say just by being spontaneous!".
Three days later I added him to my Skype contact list and we immediately had a brief conversation because he was online too (I soon realized he's ALWAYS online). Basically we introduced ourselves to each other. I talked about myself, my competences, my academic background, what would I expect from the internship at MasterNewMedia and so on. From his side, Robin explained me in detail what the internship was going to be about, how long would it last and that first two weeks would have been kind of a trial period. He said I could quit anytime if I wanted within this period and so could he.
It sounded very straightforward and correct. He was very relaxed and easygoing and it sure helped me a lot to feel at ease while speaking to him! We even tested my internet connection to be sure I could handle the teaching sessions online.
Later, after half an hour, Robin said goodbye. He would let me know something about my application in the next day or maybe that very evening. He told me he had to speak with his publishing partner Giulio Gaudiano to evaluate my application against other candidates. And so he did. Two hours later he contacted me, said he had spoken with Giulio and they had decided to pick me on board. Whoa.
I really don't know how to describe the feeling of that moment, actually. It all seems so distant even if just a few days have passed. I have this blurred memory of all seeming unreal after knowing I was being accepted. For me it just didn't mean someone thinking I was a qualified individual, but that I would have been able to work side-by-side with a team of talented people and learn a tremendous amount of things. Not books anymore. Real life. God I was excited. My life was turned upside down.
I was being accepted, really? I remember ringing up my girlfriend: "Honey, you're not gonna believe this, I'm in!!!" She didn't know what to reply... After a few minutes of silence she congratulated me and then asked doubtfully: "Honey but what are you gonna do now? Are you still going to Milan or not?" A very good question indeed.
To Leave Or Not To Leave?
What was I supposed to do now? Not going to Milan anymore?
That plane ticket suddenly began to stare at me. Just even the idea of not leaving anymore sounded crazy! That was my dream, what I had always wanted to do since I discovered my passion in journalism. Every human being I met knows about me heading Milan. Plus, my family, my friends. They all knew I would leave and everything was already set. "So, what am I gonna do now? Everyone's expecting me to go to Milan, but what about the internship at MasterNewMedia?" I started questioning myself about my beloved ones considering the possibility of me not leaving anymore. "Everyone's gonna be thinking of me as a loser who's too scared to follow his dreams but rather stay home with mommy" Yep, they sure could. "Dammit".
To make things worse, if I decided not to leave, what about the room I had found? It really wasn't easy to find a good-priced room in the crowded Milan. But I managed to. A friend of mine had told me his pal was looking for a roommate so I immediately contacted him. He said he could give me a large room where to arrange all the stuff I needed. Yeah, because when you leave home you need stuff. A lot of stuff.
All the things you've collected through time and seemed necessary, suddenly begin to be re-considered having. Is that glass-snowed-sphere of London really useful? Don't think so. Jokes apart, I spent hours and hours thinking of all the things I should carry with me. What to bring, what to leave behind, what to ask my parents to pack and send me afterwards. You know, I wasn't supposed to leave for a week or two. I was prepared to leave for a very long time, maybe for good. Hell, someway I felt like I was going back in time, when people from Sicily set to leave to reach other places of the world in their quest for a better life. And now there was me, in 2008. Doing exactly the same thing. Did I mention: "Dammit"?!
I knew that if I chose to apply for the internship with Robin Good at MasterNewMedia the whole learning process was going to be online. No airplanes, no face-to-face meetings. Just virtual meetings. Thus geographic location didn't really matter. There was no need to go to Milan anymore if I decided to apply for the internship. I also knew I had to be in front of my laptop at least 8-10 hours per day.
So the idea of looking for a job, do interviews and hand in resumes while training for the internship was crazy. Furthermore, I had promised myself I would try everything in my power to help my parents paying my rent in Milan. But would I have been able to cope with the rent if I accepted to do the internship at MasterNewMedia? The answer is no, unless I were given the gift of ubiquity, of course.
You see, the decision was a very though one. I mean, was it still reasonable to go to Milan, waste money and live in uncertainty while looking for a job? Or I'd rather stay in Catania, try the chance to learn something with Robin Good, and maybe work for him after the internship?
When I kissed my girlfriend goodbye, my head started to twirl drowning in such a difficult decision, but Robin Good made me snap back to reality. "Ok, if you want we can start having lessons right away. Would you?" I said yes. Shit, I never thought the lessons could have started that fast! That really caught me off my guard. I lacked time to reflect, and that's the reason why I decided I would choose what my heart told me.
You Never Stop Learning
That very evening Robin Good and me started having a screen-sharing session. Robin taught me how to edit and publish an article written by an external collaborator of MasterNewMedia. Robin told me there are different ways to write an article and you have to pay attention to many details. "You see, have a look at this page", The editor-in-chief of MasterNewMedia said while showing me some websites."This is unreadable. No links, no paragraphs. Nothing. How am I supposed to read it without falling asleep?!" I had to agree.
From the very first moment I started to get the picture. Robin's lessons were going to be something like: "You think you know how to do that. Well, think again. You can do it way better". He went on showing me some other articles on the Web.
"Consider this while editing someone else' work: have they capitalized their titles correctly? Have they chunked their paragraph to allow the reader scan it? Have they chosen the right image to associate with every paragraph?"
I have to say I really enjoyed the image-related part of the lesson. Robin taught me how to employ the correct process formula to select impactful and attention-catching images for an article. It seemed like studying sociology at university. Reading about obvious things that no-one would have ever explained to you. "You cannot choose and image just because you like it. That is too much subjective. I might not like the image you like. So you have to use other criteria". Yep, he was right. The proper way is choosing an image which immediately matches to the message conveyed by the article. Just as a magnet.
After the first lesson, I was truly amazed I had learned so many things in such a little time!
I was given my first task too: edit and choose images for an article he was going to publish in some days. Me? Right away? "Yes, and to make the thing more interesting, you're gonna correct mistakes after article is published". I felt just like Tweek, a fictional hyperactive character from South Park: "There's too much pressure!!!"
To make things worse, Robin even allowed me to spend his own money to buy images on a professional website. "Each time you buy an image you pay, so choose carefully". I was amazed. "This guy's great, dude. He's handing me money and he doesn't know me at all". I mean, how can he be sure I was not a douchebag and buy some crazy stuff? I don't know, maybe because he's such a talented teacher. I think he knows who's in front of him from the very first words. That's why every day I feel like I'm learning a lot.
That night I went to bed at 3am, after sending him an e-mail with the images I had picked. I felt elated even if I had messed all up.
Yesterday (August 22th) I had this guy working with Robin Good, Massimiliano Badolati, having me for a training session. He taught me how to search, filter, aggregate and manage news. At MasterNewMedia they call this process Newsmastering. Robin Good itself gave birth to the term. It's like being a DJ selecting and picking news instead of songs. I had read something about it on MasterNewMedia's website, but I was very curios to know about it from someone who really does it everyday.
Max, as Robin Good calls him, was very easygoing and helpful. He told me he's still in his internship but Robin already started giving him some important tasks and paying his work. He was very professional while explaining me what Newsmastering was about and very funny when we took a small break. "You'll see Daniele, 24-hours seem a very long time, but not while you're working at MasterNewMedia!" he told me lighting a cigarette.
The Recipe for Success
Chatting with Max and a first look at relationships inside MasterNewMedia team, gave me the idea of a very stimulating team, strongly dedicated to its work. But the good news is they were not just a bunch of stakanovists. They enjoy working with each other because they have a very easygoing approach. I learned this is part of a working approach called bioteaming.
The core idea is that working in a relaxed and optimistic environment healths production and stability inside the group itself. Each member of the group is given confidence and does his job without being supervised. He surely can make mistakes, but they are considered as something that might happen and be avoided next time with the help of the others. Yeah, because members are given help freely, without having to ask for assistance. Members are given accountability as well. Everyone knows who can count for and what he's counted on for by the others.
They share glory and failure, in a total transparent way. You win, I win. You lose, I lose. But even if we lose we will win again next time, because we are confident in each others. That's the spirit of bioteams. Robin Good describes his crew like a group of dolphins. Every single dolphin supports the others, they work as a group and they support themselves as a natural instinct.
In the homepage of MasterNewMedia's site there's a caption under Robin Good's face on the very top left of the screen. It goes: "BE SMART, BE INDEPENDENT, BE GOOD". Well, I'm starting to understand what that really means. Robin Good wants his readers to be as passionate as he and his crew are at doing their job.
It surely will take some time before I can acquire and manage the skills to always choose the coherent image, edit and article in the correct way or choose the right news to publish, but I do love challenges. I might be part of Robin's team someday, and that surely puts a big smile upon my face.
Daniele Bazzano - one minute introductory video application for MasterNewMedia
Originally written by Daniele Bazzano for Master New Media and first published on August 29th 2008 as "New Media Internship With Robin Good - Firsthand Report From A MasterNewMedia Intern".
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