Last week Journalism.co.uk wasn’t just reporting the debate about unpaid internships in the media industry – we were part of it after a six-month, unpaid placement with Tesco was listed on our forums. The ad was placed in error – we do list unpaid internships, so long as they are within a reasonable length of time.
We had some useful Twitter conversations about the listing and the ethics of listing unpaid internships at all – these have helped us update our policy for posting such listings on the forum.
As part of the discussions, I was contacted by Tanya de Grunwald who runs the website GraduateFog.co.uk, which is campaigning for an end to unpaid internships for graduates, to answer some questions on the issue. Not all of my responses were used in the resulting blog post – such is the editing process – so I thought I’d reproduce them here.
It would be really useful to hear your views on what kind of internships we should be listing on our forums, if any, so if you’re an employer, would-be recruit or recent graduate, please leave your thoughts in a comment.
My answers to Tanya’s questions (in bold) were as follows:
What is Journalism.co.uk’s policy on advertising unpaid internships? Are you aware that it is legally dubious to do this, not to mention ethically?
Internships – paid and unpaid – are listed on our forum. We don’t receive any money for those posted on the forum, such as the Tesco ad (SEE BELOW – question 3).
We currently carry these rules for posting work experience/internship listings on the forum:
This forum is intended for genuine, time-limited work experience placements and internships (of no longer than a month’s duration) only. Placements should involve shadowing (and learning from) working journalists at an in-office location. We reserve the right to remove at our discretion any posts that are deemed to be in breach of these rules.
You can post in this forum free of charge – however, in order to get a better response (and much wider exposure) we would recommend posting on our jobs board at http://www.journalism.co.uk/75.
For more information about what constitutes a good work experience placement/internship please read the following post by forum user and freelance journalist Louise Bolotin: http://www.journalism.co.uk/journalists/forum/index.php/topic,519.0.html
These can be found at this link http://www.journalism.co.uk/journalists/forum/index.php/topic,2426.0.html and were updated yesterday to include a time limit of ‘no longer than a month’s duration’.
We want to provide a service to journalism students and job hunters who are looking for internships – either as part of their course requirements – or as a way to dip their toe into the industry and gain more experience. There is a balance to be struck between gaining experience with short-term placements and those employers that seek to exploit journalism students and graduates in a saturated market. Internships, conducted properly, can hold tremendous value for journalism students and graduates and we’ve reported on Skillset and the NUJ’s work to encourage better industry standards in this area. I hope we can continue to be part of the debate and drive to give better work experience placements and deals to new journalists.
We will be reviewing our policy on listing unpaid internships – starting with rooting out any that have been posted with a duration of more than one month. The Tesco/Cedar ad was posted in error and has now been removed. I was interested to read in your blog post about the potential legal implications and I’ll be looking into this further as part of our review.
Do ads undergo any kind of screening process before they go live? What responsibility do you feel advertisers have towards protecting your applicants from exploitation?
I think I’ve answered this above – but just to clarify, we’re not paid for listing these work experience/internship opportunities on the forum, so they aren’t our applicants, though they may have been directed to the placement by our site.
Listings on this section of our forum are post-moderated: employers can list placements directly, in addition to our production team listing opportunities that they come across elsewhere. As mentioned, the Tesco ad has since been removed.
One thing to add: we hope that our forum and Twitter following will help us root out and flag up postings that they see as inappropriate. This discussion is useful and helps us modify our editorial and advertising policies in line with our users.
Did Tesco/Cedar pay for you to run this advertisement? How much do you charge?
None of the work experience/internship listings on our forum are paid for. We post interesting internship opportunities that we see listed elsewhere. I believe the Tesco/Cedar listing came from Gorkana.
Now that you have been made aware of this ad, will you be removing it?
We have removed the ad. It shouldn’t have been put up in the first place and we regret the error, though it has been useful in making us think further about our policy on listings for internships and work experience placements.
What will happen to any applications you have already received for this role?
See above – we’re replicating this ad, not handling any part of the application process.
Do you use unpaid interns within your office at Journalism.co.uk?
We regularly have journalism students and school students who need to complete work experience as part of their course come in to our office for one- to two-week placements. We do our very best to ensure the students have a worthwhile time here and try to tailor the placements to suit their needs. We also remember that they are students, still learning and we need to monitor and help them with this and not place unreasonable expectations on them. We do not currently pay such placement students.
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- Times Online: Should employers charge for work experience?
- Internships are a mix of exploitation and privilege, says Ross Perlin