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Wannabe Hacks blog looking for new recruits to take the reins

July 25th, 2011 | No Comments | Posted by in Jobs, Social media and blogging

Wannabe Hacks, a blog started less than a year ago by five young hopefuls starting out in careers in journalism, is looking for new quintet of aspiring journalists.

Applications open for the second generation on Wannabe Hacks on Monday 1 August when the current Hacks – the Intern, the Student, the Freelancer, the Maverick and the Chancer – will hand over the reins and take a more hands off approach to the site.

Last autumn, when five journalist hopefuls were starting out on their different paths but all with their eyes on one career, the group began to blog about their experiences. After an early mention in the Media Guardian and a savvy use of social media, the blog became a source of information and inspiration for other trainee journalists.

Where are they now?

  • Ben Whitelaw is the Student. Whitelaw spent the past year studying for an MA in newspaper journalism at City University London and now has a job at the Guardian. He is content co-ordinator at the Guardian Professional Networks, a selection of B2B websites about public services.
  • Matthew Caines is the Freelancer. He is a freelance journalist with the Guardian (housing and society) but also writes for various lifestyle and fashion e-mags.
  • Nick Petrie is the Intern. He is now working for the Telegraph as a community manager.
  • Tom Clarke is the Chancer. He also spent the last year studying for an MA in newspaper journalism at City University.
  • Alice Vincent is the Maverick. She spent three months in New York, as an intern at NYLON magazine and is now working at Wired magazine in London.

Writing on Wannabe Hacks today, the five say the application process will be open for two weeks from Monday (1 August).

There are full details of who should think about applying on the site.

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Internships are a mix of exploitation and privilege, says Ross Perlin

June 6th, 2011 | 3 Comments | Posted by in Editors' pick, Jobs, Legal

On Radio 4 this morning Andrew Marr spoke to Ross Perlin, the author of a new study into the issue of unpaid internships. It was an interesting topic of debate in light of an announcement last month by the National Union of Journalists of its first victory in its Cashback for Interns campaign.

Speaking on Start the Week, Perlin argued that the older idea of work experience is giving way more to an “American notion” of multiple months of serious but unpaid work with an “unspoken barter deal” with the understanding that there may be a paid-position at the end. But more often this is not the case, he claims.

It is a curious mixture of exploitation on the one hand and privilege on the other. People who can afford to do these internships are in once sense privileged, they are lucky to have their foot in the door. People who can’t pay to get into the system, just in terms of the expenses or rent or food, are essentially left out and therefore barred from a whole range of professions which have made internships a virtual prerequisite.

Perlin calls for existing internships to be reformed, adding that he is not calling for their abolition, but the development of a fairer system.

I would say wade very carefully into the internship morass if you must. If you feel you must work unpaid and you can manage to do it, for any individual it might make sense in a particular situation to do this for a brief period of time, but don’t get caught in the internship trap. Know your rights and once you’re doing real work that you should be paid for under the national minimum wage act you should be receiving that pay, you should amend that.

Follow this link to hear the full programme. The discussion on internships starts at about 30 minutes in.

Also today, the Frontline Club website has published an anonymous piece by an intern detailing their experiences of unpaid work.

In most of my experience, however, they rarely amount to more than the routine execution of mundane activities that could and should be done by a paid member of staff or which add little meaningful value either to the intern or to the organisation/publication for whom they are working.

Read the full article here.

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AP confirms internship program will be put on hold

December 15th, 2010 | No Comments | Posted by in Editors' pick, Journalism, Training

The Associated Press has confirmed that its internship program has been put on hold for a year while the company focuses its financial resources on its “essential core businesses”.

Last week, Journalism.co.uk reported that the national president of the Society of Professional Journalists had urged the Associated Press to maintain its paid internship program as it underwent an internal examination. The AP changed its internship program in news to the AP Internship Program about 10 years ago, doubling the program in size.

Today a spokesperson told Journalism.co.uk that the internship program will resume in 2012 with “the same focus on diversity”.

As part of the cutback AP has also suspended its attendance at journalism recruitment conventions for a year.

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The unpaid internships debate: a clarification on our stance

July 12th, 2010 | 7 Comments | Posted by in Training

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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Debate over unpaid internships reignited by recent adverts

July 6th, 2010 | 6 Comments | Posted by in Press freedom and ethics, Training

The debate over unpaid work experience and internships in journalism – how long you do them for, if you do them and whether they should be paid – isn’t a new one.

Industry groups and watchdogs want to see a more regulated work experience system within the industry, and more standardised pay and arrangements for working hours and expenses.

We share editors and employers ads for placements via Journalism.co.uk’s own forum and getting experience in the workplace can be a great opportunity and contact-building exercise for would-be journalists.

But the question of how much unpaid experience is too much and whether the industry is over-reliant on a stream of hungry graduates at a time of strapped resources has raised it’s head again this week with journalists and bloggers picking up on some ads for long-term, unpaid internships.

There’s a six-week placement with freelance journalist Tiffany Wright and a six-month internship with website www.hot-dinners.com. Both promise, and I’m sure for the right candidate would bring, hands-on experience and responsibility and a way to break into their respective sectors.

Of course, there a many other similar adverts and not all are as clear about whether or not successful candidates will get paid. The idea of unpaid internships with freelancers has sparked some interesting comments from freelancers Patrick Smith:

[I]f I was hiring for a trainee I’d want someone with the know-how and guts to set up their own freelance career/site/business rather than someone was that content to help someone else’s.

I could understand spending a few weeks with a leading, high-profile figure – a genuine world leader in their field perhaps – to learn some of the ropes and get some top advice but, with all due respect to Wright and her successful career, that doesn’t appear to be the case here.

And Sally Whittle:

[D]o I think a freelancer offering the opportunity to help her out for six weeks is any more evil or exploitative than the publishing company that advertised on Gorkana last week for an unpaid intern for a MINIMUM commitment of six months?

As a journalism student, I worked at Literary Review magazine for four weeks for free. I got some experience and a few contacts, but I think working with a jobbing freelancer and arranging interviews and setting up calls might actually have taught me more than I learned sitting in an office doing typing for Auberon Waugh.

The debate isn’t going to go away any time soon – for those seeking more advice on paid vs unpaid placements, the Guardian’s careers section is running a Q&A from 1-4pm today on just that topic.

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Current charity auction bid for week’s work experience at Vogue: £7,850

Anna Wintour, the legendary editor-in-chief of Vogue is offering you the opportunity of a lifetime! Just being near her will make you chic.

Chic, perhaps. Out of pocket, most certainly. For this “opportunity of a lifetime” (read: one week’s work experience at Vogue) will set you back at least the current bid of $12,000 (£7,850).

Now in this instance, and in the unnerving number of instances that have preceded it, the winning bid will be donated to charity. In the current climate it seems unlikely that a mainstream media organisation in the UK would have the temerity to simply charge outright for an internship. But, as this article in the Times revealed in February, should it happen, there will be those willing to pay:

[C]ompanies have sprung up offering UK students the chance to hone their skills by paying for an overseas placement in their chosen profession. Clea Guy-Allen, a London journalism student, paid to work on a newspaper in India last summer. “I paid £3,000. My parents helped out but I used savings. The whole experience was good. I was in India for three months and did learn a lot, but not necessarily from working on the paper.”

How much longer will this practice remain too ethically unsound? With unpaid, full-time internships of three to six months eagerly undertaken by the great recently-graduated, will the media industry slip past that particular point on an already slippery slope?

(Via Mediabistro)

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Live chat on careers in TV production

April 12th, 2010 | No Comments | Posted by in Editors' pick

To mark the launch of a new internship scheme, Channel 4 is taking part in a live Q&A session on the Guardian’s Careers website today from 12-3pm.

Jo Taylor, head of learning and 4talent; Alison George, learning and organisational development specialist at Channel 4; and representatives from several independent production companies will be on hand to answer your questions about breaking into the TV industry.

To take part visit the forum at this link.

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