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.