HGTV Magazine Memoir

by Sonaiya Kelley


Fresh off the heels of a summer internship with, I was offered the opportunity to intern for Hearst’s HGTV Magazine. While this internship was not explicitly journalism, I couldn’t pass up the chance to intern with Hearst, the publisher of several of my favorite magazines.  In fact, I wanted it badly enough to commit two days a week to the internship on top of a course load that included JRN 370, JRN 364, and, most dreaded of all, JRN 490. It was going to be a rough semester, but for the chance to work at Hearst, or at least to have one shining “name brand” publication on my resume, I was willing to risk it.

I served as the market intern at HGTV Magazine, which meant I was responsible for searching for products and creating storyboards. For example, for the December issue, a story ran called “Holiday Up Your House,” and I was responsible for assembling all kinds of holiday bathroom décor: snowflake-printed toilet paper, snowman-bedecked bath mats, and ornament-shaped soap dispensers. I was also responsible for upkeeping the product closet, which was filled with all of the products featured in recent issues and products we’d called in to feature in future issues. The closet was a walk-in closet with floor-to-ceiling shelves holding all manner of home décor: rugs and lamps and kitchen merchandise, the works. I had to keep everything neat and clearly labeled and make sure boxes marked for return didn’t overwhelm the room.

I was also charged with reaching out to PR and marketing departments to call in products and return them. It wasn’t quite journalism, but after five straight semesters in the J-school I was ready for a little break from writing. Still, I was able to use my reporting and research skills to find products online. I had to make quick decisions and present my “finds” in creative and convincing ways to earn my supervisor’s approval and I honed my interpersonal skills dealing with PR, marketing and editorial professionals including the market assistant and director, whom I worked most closely under.

This internship taught me that being a writer or a reporter is not my only “in” to my magazine dream job. Writing, editing and shooting video are great but I wish the J-school encouraged us to explore other paths in the media world. A lot of us in the J-school are writers who pursued journalism because we don’t know how else to channel our writing talents. But as someone who’s only considered a writing career her whole life, I can tell you it’s exhilarating to discover other possibilities that might bring just as much fulfillment.

Am I saying I want to jump ship to call in products and make physical Pinterest boards for the rest of my life? No.  But I am glad that with this internship my resume looks a little more multidimensional without making me seem like I’m unsure of what to do with my life.

If I could go back, I probably wouldn’t do anything differently. I enjoyed my biweekly foray into the Real World, where editors work for peanuts but their wardrobes always seemed to express the opposite. HGTV Magazine is a few blocks from Columbus Circle – physically separate from the larger Hearst Tower empire – but it shares the same block and its editors share the same cafeteria. Besides, it was exhilarating to be in the city. And 10 a.m. to 6 p.m. are fairly reasonable hours even if they are unpaid.

I want future interns to know that they should be open to exploring different kinds of opportunities to become more well-rounded.  And always to be personable on the job because networking could get you just as far as a stellar resume. I think future interns should try to enjoy their internships as much as they can because, like a flash in a pan, it’s over.