The best way to begin your journey to the anchor desk or executive producer's chair is with an internship. Getting a first-hand peep into the guts of a newsroom can tell you whether you want to work full-time in a world where people swear at each other for no reason and never get any sleep. Just like any other field, internships let you know if this is your gig.

The good news is that most television stations around the country offer tons of internships. The bad news is that more than half of those are unpaid. The worst news is that most of them suck, because you do the things that no one else wants to do, like organizing videotapes for weeks. And weeks. And weeks. To be fair, at least you can claim experience when looking for a real job.

It's not hard to locate TV news internships near you. One way is to pick up a TV Guide and write the names down of the news stations in your area. Then dial 4-1-1 and write down what they say. Complee-cated, eh? Or, you can hit for a handy master index of stations in your area.

The three broadcast news networks (ABC, CBS, NBC) and the three cable networks (CNN, MSNBC, and FOX) have small bureaus in major cities around the country. All of them are headquartered in New York, except for CNN, which is run out of Atlanta.

Call the newsroom and ask for the name and address of the specific person who accepts intern applications will do.

Get a specific name and make sure you have the correct spelling. Technical errors can kill any cover letter in any job world, (see "SYW write an impressive resume") and "SYW write a cover letter" for proof), but in journalism they take on a special meaning. Even in television, part of your paycheck comes from spelling things correctly. Send a letter filled with spelling errors to a traditional company and they'll just think you're an idiot. Send one to a TV newsperson and they'll picture their newscast filled with butchered homonyms on the day you 'helped out' in the graphics department. Send off your stuff, and if you don't hear back in a week, then call. Journalists will respect you if you are persistent and show an ability to get people on the phone without being too annoying. That's because their jobs involve being persistent, getting people on the phone, and being particularly annoying.

Many TV news internships present opportunities to do more interesting things than the entry-level full-time staffers above you. Live television is a place where deadlines aren't flexible, so any newsroom can turn into a crisis atmosphere in a hurry. The more crises there are, the more chances you have to be a hero. Try to spot little things that need to be done and do them. If you catch a factual error in a script, say so. If you hear a phone ringing and nobody can get to it, pick it up. (And then say something into it.)

Most TV news people don't have the time to make sure their interns are getting their money's worth from an unpaid job, so the burden here is on you. If some schmuck makes you spend your semester taking out the garbage and getting him M & M's, find another producer or reporter who can give you things to do. The worst thing you can do all day at a TV internship is to sit around, say nothing, and wait for the line to appear on your resume. If you find yourself organizing videotapes for eight hours a day for weeks and weeks, you are not getting anything out of your internship experience. Either talk to someone, or find a better internship. You're better than that.

SoYouWanna know more? Check out our full-length article SYW get a job in tv news?