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Student journalist finds himself in front of the camera
BBC talk show invites Ohio interns to comment on midterm elections

Nov. 15, 2006
By Christopher Gohlke

Editor's note: Christopher Gohlke shared a video clip of his BBC appearance with us. Click here to watch.

Photos courtesy of Chris GohlkeSometimes it takes a role reversal to truly understand one's trade.

The most famed film directors are ones who have been actors. The most astute business people, perhaps, are those who have once faced bankruptcy. The best doctors, surely, are those who have been sick themselves.

That knowledge is what led me halfway around the world.

At 17, I had my first stint as a political reporter covering township government for The Suburbanite, my local newspaper. Having reported for three other papers since then -- including The Athens NEWS, The Athens Messenger and the Akron Beacon Journal -- I've attempted to work my way up the journalistic ladder with the hopes of covering politics full time.

When I discovered the Wales Internship Program arranged through Ohio University's Department of Political Science, I knew the experience abroad would be advantageous in a number of ways. Most importantly, though, it would give me a chance to see political journalism from the other side of the reporter's notebook -- working as a press officer for a political party.

It's now a year after I applied to the program. As I write this, I'm sitting at my desk at the National Assembly for Wales, the country's legislative body, at its headquarters in the nation's capital. I work alongside politicians and their support staff in the offices of Plaid Cymru, the Welsh nationalist party.

Internship opportunities offered through National Assembly for Wales

The National Assembly for Wales offers several internship opportunities through the Political Science Department at Ohio University. This 12-15 week program is offered twice a year: January-April and September-December.  Combined with the internship experience students gain, they also receive up to 19 hours of Ohio University credit and take an intensive British culture and politics course through Swansea University.

Interns are classified as research assistants and work with political parties or Assembly Members. They perform varying tasks and are exposed to many aspects of Assembly business.  In the past, interns have written research reports, press releases and speeches for plenary (the twice-weekly legislative session). Interns often handle member schedules, correspondence, and constituent relations. 

Students have a large say in their placement options. Preferences may be based on party lines, areas of interest, or requests to work with a specific Assembly Member.  The British government, including the National Assembly for Wales, has a multi-party system.  Assembly Members currently represent four parties: Labour, Conservatives, Liberal Democrats, and Plaid Cymru.  Interns can be and have been placed with all four of these parties.

Internships are political, but undergraduates from all majors are welcome to apply. Students from the areas of journalism, communication, business, history, biology, engineering, anthropology, education, and political science have participated in the program.

The National Assembly for Wales is located in Cardiff Bay, two hours west of London, England. Students get to stay in pre-arranged modern flats within walking distance of both the Assembly and downtown area (covered by the program fee). The apartments are designed for the young, professional class that the area has attracted in recent years.  Students are also offered free time for British and/or European travel.

The program is open to U.S. citizens only and students need a minimum 3.0 GPA and must have completed some prior coursework in British or European history and/or politics. Internship application and recommendation forms can be found on the Web site. 

Students must turn in an application, resume, an up-to-date transcript and two recommendations to pols.interns@ohio.edu, or to the political science department in Bentley Annex.

For more information, visit www.cas.ohiou.edu/pols/WalesInternship

For the past few months I've been immersed in the world of political journalism here: writing press releases for my party's Assembly members, attending press conferences, tracking press coverage. This hasn't been a lesson in coffee-fetching; my co-workers treat me like a colleague.

As if working as a political press officer wasn't enough of a role reversal for the innate newspaper reporter in me, the tides changed even further when I was invited to be a guest on the BBC's "AM.PM" show.

After the U.S. midterm election, interns George McAleese, Kat Fralick and I were asked to go on the show and discuss our thoughts of the election results. For someone who is used to expressing himself through pen and paper, going live on-air in front of a nation was an eye-opening -- and similarly nerve-wracking -- experience for me.

Minutes before we sat down in front of the cameras on the BBC set, the three of us were whisked away to the makeup room, hooked up to microphones, and introduced to the show's host, Adrian Masters. When the lights went on and the cameras began to roll, I forgot everything I had prepared to say.

I rattled off answers to the host's questions, which would have been painless had it been a casual conversation; this chat, however, was being broadcast live to the entire nation. It wasn't until then that I knew how it felt all those times I approached someone with a tape recorder in hand.

This week I have a meeting with the U.S. Consul General when he comes to visit the Assembly. Next month the other interns and I will go on a behind-the-scenes tour of the Houses of Parliament in London. I've gone to a rock concert and an opera, I've been to castles and coal mines, and I've seen the forgotten beaches and sheep-covered vales of Great Britain. This autumn has been as much of a lesson in culture as it has been in politics and news.

When I come back to the United States at the end of the year, I'll return reinvigorated with a new affinity for what's to come. With the knowledge of a journalist, of a press officer, and most recently of an interviewee, I have a new understanding of all aspects of my trade.

And armed with a thorough knowledge of the political press, maybe now I'll have what it takes to succeed in this exhilarating field. 

Christopher Gohlke is an Ohio University student interning this quarter at the National Assembly for Wales.


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Published: Nov 15, 2006 8:29:35 AM
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