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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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Wannabe Hacks go in search of 50 best journalism placements

May 3rd, 2011 | No Comments | Posted by in Awards, Editors' pick, Training

Work experience has caused a bit of a stir in the nationals recently, what with Clegg and Cameron slugging out over social mobility. In an industry like the media, controversy over its almost mandatory unpaid placements is never far away.

But bloggers Wannabe Hacks have taken a step back from the debates about how to solve a problem like work experience to ask: What are the 50 best journalism placements?

The Wannabe Hacks – who have “all done reams of work experience themselves” – will be asking aspiring journalists to nominate their best placement in no more than 40 words.

They can be paid or unpaid, and contributors are asked to include the publication name and section if applicable.

Nominations can be sent to Ben Whitelaw on top50@wannbehacks.co.uk. The deadline is Friday, 27 May at 5pm.

I’m sure there is something else going on that day too…

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Huffington Post: Exploitation claim is ‘wrong and offensive’

The Huffington Post has defended its policy of not paying for contributors’ blog posts, after the Newspaper Guild in the US accused the site of exploiting freelance journalists.

The guild launched a campaign following the site’s sale to AOL for $315m earlier this month, calling on Huffington to share a portion of the sale proceeds with contributors, because she had built a successful media empire based on unpaid work.

In an email seen by Poynter, the Huffington Post’s head of media relations Mario Ruiz responds: “It’s both wrong and offensive to insist that HuffPost is exploiting journalists.”

Ruiz wrote: “HuffPost has 143 editors, writers, and reporters on our edit team. But we feel there’s a critical distinction between our editors and reporters and the people who contribute to our group blog.

“While we pay our editors and reporters, we don’t pay for the opinion pieces submitted by our thousands of bloggers. The vast majority of our bloggers understand the value of having a platform that reaches a very large audience.

“They can write as often as like they like or as little as they like.”

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Top five news, features and blog posts on Journalism.co.uk in 2010 (by page views)

December 26th, 2010 | No Comments | Posted by in Journalism, Traffic

OK, we know it’s quality not quantity that counts, but it’s still fascinating (to us at least) to learn which stories have attracted the most traffic over the course of a year.

Unsurprisingly, Wikileaks is prominent as was the televised leaders debate during the general election. And some old faithfuls continue to pull in traffic from jobseekers and ‘wannabe’ freelancers (this year that was probably mostly unemployed journalism graduates and recently ‘redundant’ journalists).

But stories about paywalls failed to even come close…

News:

  1. Reporters Without Borders to host mirror site for WikiLeaks
  2. Julian Assange: Financial threats to WikiLeaks are serious
  3. Sky News defends Kay Burley’s interview treatment of 38 Degrees director
  4. New tools for Sky journalists as social media strategy moves from one to many
  5. Dates announced for UK leaders’ election debates on Sky, BBC and ITV

Features:

  1. How to: Get started as a freelance journalist
  2. Daniell Morrisey: How to prepare a killer CV
  3. Daniell Morrisey: How to make the most of work experience
  4. How to: find contacts and information about people online
  5. How to: write the perfect press release for journalists

Blog posts:

  1. Ten things every journalist should know in 2010
  2. Wikileaks releases video showing Apache shooting of Reuters news staff
  3. The 100 most influential news media Twitter accounts
  4. Are you on the j-list? The leading innovators in journalism and media in 2010
  5. ‘A real free press for the first time in history’: WikiLeaks editor speaks out in London

Source: Google Analytics

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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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Girish Gupta: What happens when you invoice for work experience

November 25th, 2010 | No Comments | Posted by in Editors' pick, Training

Recently the National Union of Journalists (NUJ) said it would offer legal assistance to interns wanting to claim back unpaid wages. Well, freelance journalist Girish Gupta decided to take action and invoice the Independent for two week’s unpaid work experience.

Read the results in the blog post at this link…

(HT – FleetStreetBlues)

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Scottish Parliament offering placement to ‘news hound’

October 29th, 2010 | No Comments | Posted by in Politics, Training

The Scottish Parliament and the Fife Free Press this week launched a competition offering a week-long placement for one journalism student in Parliament’s Media Tower.

The competition is open to final year and postgraduate journalism students studying at Scottish colleges and universities.

According to a release from Scottish Parliament the winner will get to work alongside top political correspondents and file copy for publication in the Fife Free Press.

Details on the entry process can be found here…

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Life as an editor – through the eyes of a journalism student

August 3rd, 2010 | No Comments | Posted by in Journalism, Newspapers, Traffic

Sophie Ryley is a second year journalism student at Cardiff University. She recently won a radio prize to be ‘editor for the day’ at the South Wales Echo. Here she talks about her experience of a day in the ‘hot seat’ and how it has impacted on her view of journalism and future plans.

When the day finally came for me to take my place in the ‘hot seat’ as editor of the Echo, I really didn’t know what to expect from the day. I walked into the impressive Media Wales offices at 9:00am in a brand new crease-free white shirt. I didn’t feel nervous, just apprehensive. I thought to myself, “what does the editor of the Echo do all day? Will I just be making coffee? Will I be going to important meetings? Will I meet any famous Welsh rugby players..?” No, dream on.

My day began with meeting everyone who worked in the main newsroom. When I was introduced to each department as their ‘editor for the day’ they seemed to be quite pleased at the prospect. I explained to the reporters that I was lucky enough to come in for the day and I’d be keeping a close eye on all of them!

After being introduced to my colleagues in the newsroom, I was taken up to see the real editor of the Echo, Mike Hill, so we could have a chat about what my day in the ‘hot seat’ would entail. He explained the usual running of the day at the newspaper, where he would attend morning and afternoon conferences, as well as meetings with individuals or companies from outside the newspaper.

At 11.00am it was time for the morning conference, I would be shadowing Mike at the head of the table. We discussed which stories would be going into the following day’s paper as well as overseeing the page layout, and I voiced my opinion on which stories should go where. Mike and I approved the potential stories and then went out for lunch, in true editor’s style!

The hard work really started during the afternoon, when I sat in on meetings with Mike. We met with Roy Payne, marketing manager behind WBC Night of Champions, a prestigious boxing event to be held in Cardiff during August. The WBC were working alongside the South Wales Echo to promote the boxing event. I asked Roy if any of the competitors be available for interviews with the Echo to attract publicity, and felt I really got the most out of taking part in the meeting, as well as displaying my passion for the newspaper and journalism.

The day was drawing to a close so Mike and I made our way to the final conference at 4:30pm with the sub-editors and heads of departments. It can’t deny it was quite intimidating sitting there with such knowledgeable and successful journalists, but I kept my cool! During the conference there were some problems with an advertising space so I said: ‘Why not move this story there instead?’ I think they were quite surprised that this young journalism ‘hot shot’ actually came up with a solution to their problem!

The day had come to an end, but I have been fortunate enough to be asked to come back during August to take part in a full week’s work experience. I am really looking forward to experiencing the ‘typical’ week of a newspaper journalist.

Spending the day as editor of the South Wales Echo really did have an impact on my future plans. After being shown around the departments within the newspaper, I feel my passion lies in news and feature writing. The journalists really gave me an insight into what they’re job entails, highlighting how there really is no comparison between what you learn in the newsroom and the classroom. I am not discrediting the Cardiff School of Journalism in any way, but what I learnt in that one day has been invaluable compared to my weekly lectures.

Journalism is a very difficult profession to get into, but I don’t have a negative outlook on the industry. It is competitive because the journalists and editors I met really love what they do. It became clear to me over the course of that day how exciting journalism is. The world around us is constantly changing, and it is our job to report on these changes; taking you to different places and talking to different people each day.

I am a year away from graduating and I feel that journalism is the industry in which I want to build a career. Spending the day with the South Wales Echo made me confident that I can become a successful journalist. I am now full of anticipation for my week’s work experience at the newspaper, and building up my portfolio and enhancing my journalistic skills. Watch this space!

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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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