Archive for the 'Journalism' Category

Hey intern, get me a coffee and stop whingeing

An interesting article in the Observer this morning by Barbara Ellen…

Does anyone care, I mean really care, about interns? They’ve been complaining recently about being exploited, underpaid (if paid at all), and generally treated as despised dogsbodies.

There is even a website called Interns Anonymous, full of interns complaining about being exploited, underpaid, treated as dogsbodies, etc. On IA, some of the whinges are so lengthy and self-pitying one can’t help but wonder if they might have got on a little better if they’d poured all that energy into the internship.

Of course we are delighted that debate about internships has been highlighted in the national press once again! Read the full article here.

NUJ to update work experience/intern guidelines

A new set of guidelines will soon be launched for news and media organisations that take interns and work experience students.

The guidelines, designed by the National Union of Journalists and industry training organisation Skillset, will be a guide for employers to protect young journalists from exploitation. The two groups have re-evaluated previous guidelines from 2007 in response to a rise in the number of graduates who feel compelled to work for little or no wage.

“While most people we raise this with recognise the problem exists, most are surprised by the extent to which major media organisations are relying on free labour,” said NUJ general secretary Jeremy Dear last year.

A sentiment many readers of this site will agree with.

Coming back to haunt a newspaper near you

Spotted in the Telegraph by an eagle-eyed Dina Rickman (Dina – if you read this please write to us with your own intern experiences!) is a horrible article by journalist Celia Walden. She describes a week of torture dished out to her ‘whipping boy’ work experience-r… retribution, it seems, for her own work placements.

Once Ed had finished alphabetising a decade’s worth of business cards for me, booked reservations at the Ivy (posing as my PA) and spent an afternoon scouring London for a Tintin desk diary (A5, Ed, not A4 – back out you go, my boy), a co-worker took him home to clean out her bins.

I’m tempted to write this off as payback for the years of humiliation I endured at the hands of men during my salad days, but I suspect it’s just more fun abusing a boy – something about that Estella/Pip dynamic, perhaps.

Still, my memories of work placements aren’t exactly edifying. There was that stint on a TV listings magazine, where the boys would routinely order me to stand up on a chair and tweak the aerial. “A bit more to the left,” they’d cry out. “Nope – to the right. Now back to the left.” This would go on for some time, until one day the editor walked in on a particularly prolonged session, ordered me down from the chair and delivered a hushed rebuke – from which the only words I could make out were “Harassment Act”.

Does Ed deserve this? Is it all part of the learning curve? Or does Celia deserve a slap in the face?

Sick of the Sunday Times

I moved back to London from my hometown last January, in a bid to pursue a budding career in journalism. I’d worked on a local paper with a decent salary and was pretty sure I could write myself out of any tight spot; so I set about lining up work experience and internships to give myself an edge.

I managed, through a friend, to get 2 weeks’ placement on the Sunday Times News Review. I arrived bright-eyed and bushy-tailed on the Monday morning, not expecting to be given the most fascinating jobs in the world, but hoping that if I proved myself willing then I might make some useful contacts.

An ostensibly friendly woman showed me to my desk from the lobby and said somebody would be with me shortly. I waited an hour for my “boss” to turn up, who simply said to me, “do you know what you’re supposed to be doing?” When I replied that no, I had no idea what was in store for me, she sighed and set me about making lists of the day’s news stories published in all the day’s papers. She didn’t tell me how long the list was supposed to be, or give me any examples; she just barked out a simple instruction and vanished. For the rest of the week, she communicated with me only through one-sentence emails.

Continue reading ‘Sick of the Sunday Times’

Media interest in interns and Internships

Two bits of national press this week. Firstly, the BBC featured the issue of parliamentary internships on BBC Radio Five live and simultaneously on the BBC website. And today the Guardian have included an interview with my colleague Rosy in the Work section. Interestingly the journalist who wrote the article, Huma Qureshi, is an ex-intern herself, and got her job at the Guardian/Observer after a stint of unpaid work! The message is clear: it can happen!

Guardian Diary of an Intern

I almost didn’t post this up. It’s just that dull. The trouble is the Guardian is not going to publish a desensitized account of a journalism internship. The fact that you have begged for months to get a place, only to realise it probably wont get you anywhere in the long run. Almost as soon as I graduated I got a month at a national– thinking this was my ticket to any number of entry-level jobs. What an idiot.

The most helpful hacks – rather than just rebuffing my eagerness – told me to do an expensive post-grad course and then concentrate on getting more unpaid work. Somehow I didn’t expect it to be that hard. Uni career services should really spend more time explaining how tough reality is. Anyway, rant over. Here is the Guardian’s diary of an intern…

Continue reading ‘Guardian Diary of an Intern’

Playing it cool

As an intern on a national newspaper I often have to pinch myself when that magical beep allows me through the security gates every morning, just being in the building is enough to make the experience worthwhile most of the time. Despite this though, it is often very tough. When the initial buzz of being party to an industry you’ve spent so long daydreaming about wears off, the reality of working long hours for no money can be extremely difficult - both mentally and physically.

One of the hardest parts of being an intern with no salary is getting up early and getting home late, spending long hours completing tasks which are essential to the running of your section all the while knowing that you’re not being paid for your efforts - a knowledge that leaves me feeling demoralised and demotivated at the end of a long week. Although my editor is supportive and often allows me opportunities to write and gather content for the section, when the office gets busy lines get easily blurred and it becomes very easy for employers to forget an intern is there to gain experience, not make cups of tea and deliver scripts around the building. What becomes so ultimately heart-breaking about the entire intern experience is the knowledge that when my time is up here, i’ll be just the latest in a long line of interns who’ve gone before me, despite how much I impress.

tightrope

Internships are a balancing act

Which leads me to the-near impossible balancing act that interns know only too well -the fine line between appearing enthusiastic, dedicated and available and being dubbed the irritating, over-cheerful suck up, the latter of which ought to be avoided at all costs. Even after you master the art of making an impression while staying out of the way, there remains the simple fact that no matter how hard you try, chances of getting a job are pretty much non-existent, as every editor/reporter/cafe attendant will tell you.

Quit your bellyaching

 Like many of our generation, I have taken the route of an internship with a Member of Parliament. There are some interesting responsibilities, press releases, case work etc. Then there are the usual pitfalls; the lack of direction in the office mainly. One of the key problems for interns is that those directly responsible for them often forget that the principle reason for you being there is to increase your skills. Often the lines are blurred between Bob, the unpaid intern who is here for the benefit of his career, learning essential skills for public affairs, and Bob, the office lackey who is here (almost literally) to sweep up after us. To a negligent supervisor, recently graduated university students often do seem to be there to do unpaid grunt work. When you’re on the receiving end of it, it is practically sickening.

 It can leave you with a feeling of intense resentment towards the world of public affairs and media, which thrives on this practise and often ostracises outsiders.

 Whilst undertaking this internship I have been reading The Triumph of the Political Class by Peter Oborne. I don’t think I could have picked a worse book to cement these feelings of bitterness.

 ”As they professionalized and grew more homogenous the Political and Media Classes began to restrict membership to the middle classes, and increasingly to each other’s sons and daughters. This was in large part because of the special pay structure of the Media/Political Class. Though stars in both arenas were capable of making very large sums of money indeed, new graduates are impoverished. A young researcher reporting to an MP, or a television producer starting out, are both extremely poorly paid. They are, however, expected to work in Central London, which is prohibitively expensive and only possible with subsidy from well heeled parents”

 The whole of the public affairs and media domain is made possible by backhanders, press leaks, favourable stories and a slimy mutability between actors serving themselves and their friends. Even my university’s careers page recommends the practise of ‘networking’ in order to progress in this arena. The story goes that Peter Mandelson got his big break in the world of politics by offering a cup of tea to a senior Labour figure who missed his train. Upon the Minister seeing Mandelsons’ poster of him on his bedroom wall, the young prince of darkness’s fate was sealed. Am I expected to hang around London with a hot coffee in my hand, waiting for a stray Milliband needing some refreshment to pluck me out of my provincial nightmare?

mandy

I wonder which lucky bastard bought this for him

 The underlying request amongst most users of interns anonymous is that these internships should be regulated with a statutory minimum pay. This might seem like the reasonable thing to do when so many of us are suffering at the hands of that amorphous tentacled monster in London. However, as media and public affairs have been professionalized, certain principles have slipped. Our constitution is gradually eroding and our reporting remains as unreliable as it was during the yellow press period of Hearst’s America. The prospect of increasing the regulatory powers of the state sector and paying interns in the media will only entrench these problems or create further negative consequences.

Continue reading ‘Quit your bellyaching’

Sports Journalism: From the Guardian Careers discussion on Internships

I’m a recent NCTJ graduate seeking work as a sports journalist. I have already completed one unpaid internship and intend to start another very soon in London.

I fully appreciate that for some people internships, especially long-term ones, can be difficult to commit to due to financial restrictions. But, for me it all boils down to how much desire you have to succed in your chosen career.

After completing my studies earlier this year I found it hard to find full-time work as a journalist and decided that completing an internship was the answer. However, I didn’t have much money so I moved home to save on rent and embarked on a three-month money saving mission. I took the first two jobs I was offered on a building site and in an Ice Cream parlour and I saved enough money to move to London and begin an Internship.

I fully believe that the money I made knocking down walls and selling Calippos, Fabs and Madagascan Dark Chocolate Magnums to enable myself to do another internship will lead me into the career I so passionatly want to succed in.

During my first internship I felt I was genuinely producing better stories than some of the staff reporters and politely took it up with the editor. He agreed I was contributing well to the running of the website and agreed to pay me full expenses. He said that me doing this demonstrated maturity and confidence in my ability. I have since started to do freelance work for the same website.

My experiences of interning have been very positive and have given me an insight into the world I want to work in. Without this experience I feel I would be far less equipped to find full-time work and perform well once employed.

The Newcastle-London intern commute

Recently, I graduated from Journalism School, and I know exactly what it feels like not having a choice about being forced to participate in unpaid internships.

Some of my unpaid internships were challenging opportunities and valuable learning experiences, while others were counter-productive; a waste of my time, energy, and money.

On occasions, all I did was walk around newsrooms reading newspapers for the duration. No one seemed to notice or even care that I was there, and if they did, they didn’t seem to be interested in acknowledging my presence.

To me, this defeated the purpose of what an internship is supposed to be about and why companies participate in internship programs.

For instance, a few years ago when I lived in Newcastle, I got a placement down in London. In order to fund the internship, I had to work 5 nights a week at a restaurant. I got off work at midnight Sunday and caught a bus 249 miles down to London to start a shift in a newsroom at 9 that morning. When I arrived, my supervisor told me that there wasn’t any work for me and that I should go home. Needless to say, I became angry and quit on the spot.

Anna, who wrote this post is now a freelance journalist and is looking to write about this issue. If you want to talk to her about your experiences contact her via this email address, or call her on: 07706154283.

Who are you to judge, Snooty McSmugarse?

Everyone hates unemployed people. “Sponging off the state” you might hear them say, with their Marks and Spencer shopping bags filled with swanky dead animals you never knew were edible. “Lazy scum” scream others from their shiny hybrid Mercs. “The shit on the sole of society’s shoe” yells the conservative voter in the corner there, with his rich daddy who got him his first job in the big wide world and still buys his underwear for him.

Get over it, we’re not all that bad.

It’s not as if I’m unemployed through choice. I mean, I know it’s my fault, I picked a stupid university course to study, an overpriced city to live and study in and a rubbish trade to try and earn my living, that being the scabies-riddled shit heap world of journalism.

Plus, Jesus, didn’t I time it well? Let’s graduate in an economic crisis, the one time when magazines and publishers don’t want to take risks, when employers are downsizing and the only people getting jobs are old timers with cobwebs up their arses and significantly more substance on their hand-written, coffee stained CVs.

I’m not bitter - much. It’s just lame when people pass judgement without actually knowing how difficult the situation is. Some people have worked hard and done well, notably the more talented, well-organised and better connected females with much prettier faces, and the people who aren’t reserved, mumbling, pessimistic arseholes like yours truly.

So when employed friends or family give me stick for not being employed I tend to let it slide. Or force myself to realise they’re only trying to help, without realising all they’re actually doing is coming across as patronising little buggers. There’s not always a simple enough solution to people’s recommendations of “just get off your dirty arse and get a bloody job” …just what the hell do you think I’ve been trying to do all this time?

So what happens? You start doing unpaid internships where you’re sat in the corner of a poorly ventilated room, doing everyone else’s unwanted dirty work and watching them reap the rewards in the form of a monthly wage. It’s all in the name of experience, right? Yeah, sure, here’s a list of all the things I’ve ever learnt from internships and work experience placements:

1) Papercuts hurt like fuck

2) Hot water hurts like fuck

3) Spitting in your editor’s tea will make the days go faster*

4) Stealing is really, really fun and makes you feel A LOT better

Number two is actually a little harsh, as two of the internships I’ve done have actually been awesome (stand up Artrocker Magazine and Rocket PR – you guys are safe, this doesn’t apply to you, I’d never spit in your tea), but the rest of them, especially anything based anywhere around Oxford Street, you’re a bunch of goons.

The other thing that really grinds my gears (lame Family Guy reference, I’m just as bad as the rest of them, sorry) are people that work in the job centre. I thought it was the sensible option to go on the dole. I get £52 a week, which ain’t exactly helpful, but the people in there seem to think they’re the love child of Sir Alan Sugar and Simon Cowell.

Yes, this did actually happen

Yes, this did actually happen

Here’s an example; I was two minutes late for my last sign on – which I cunningly blamed on the Sittingbourne buses that plod along the roads like a bunch of dying raccoons who’ve accidently munched a few skag needles. And oh my, the looks I get walking in there. Waving through the groups of chav scum loitering by the door (you know, the types that still sniff glue and hold their ball sacks all day), the eyes given to me by coffee slurping ‘big shots’ in that building tear through my wirey frame like a flaming samurai sword slicing through a plastic bowl of piss.

My fellow job centre peoples

My fellow job centre peoples

It’s like they’re supposed to be big shots. They’ve got their jobs and we’re causing them some sort of inconvenience for not having jobs and requiring their help. They act like they shouldn’t have to be there. But wait, hang on, don’t they need us just as much as we need them? I mean, fuck, if there weren’t any jobless people there’d be no need for the job centres, so don’t look down on me like I’m causing you problems, arsewipe. I’m giving you work to do so you can feed your inbred children, so do your job and help find me a job rather than jabbering on to eachother about how you think you might be going through the menopause or some shit. Ah thank you!

Plus who are you to judge, Snooty McSmugarse? You work in a bloody job centre. I think that means a nice old ‘nuff said’ is in order.

So sod you lot. As soon as I get a job I’m posting a card through their letter box with some scribbles simply saying “cunts”, poorly scrawled with my own poo, of course.

Brad x

This article originally appeared on Brad’s blog and if you’re twitter inclined then follow him there.

BBC call for interns

Another day, another request for interns- this time from the lovely BBC:

Are you doing or have you recently done unpaid work experience or an unpaid internship?

I am a researcher at the BBC currently looking at the issue in light of the credit crunch. I’m trying to get in contact with anyone who may have had a bad experience in this area. If this is you or someone you know, please contact me by email at: Nicola.Dowling@bbc.co.uk, on 0161 244 3931 or 07810 855 315.

 

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