Archive for the 'Journalism' Category

Fashion in a cupboard

I have a story from working on a newspaper supplement…

It was a national newspaper and the first thing that struck me was that they couldn’t cover my travel costs, so not only was I working 10-5 for free, I was actually making a loss.

I was working in a fashion cupboard. I heard from another intern working there that the job we were doing actually used to be a paid position and was therefore much more efficiently run. With little guidance I was expected to just ‘get on with it’ in a windowless and people-less room and with little to no help from the people I worked for.

Clothes that I had never seen and were ordered in before I arrived were lost, but did they try to help me? Of course not, I was left to deal with the problem and fob off some PR company.

Whilst most of the people working there were pleasant one woman had a holier than thou attitude and got annoyed with me for putting something in the wrong place despite the fact that the bossier, know-it-all intern had told me to do it. I knew she was annoyed by her monotone ‘that’s…quite…annoying…’ comment.

I can also echo another piece on your website about fashion people claiming to be overworked. I find they hardly do anything. I can’t imagine how they would cope in the real world where they would be overseen by a boss who might put a stop to their frequent mundane chit chat and cigarette breaks. You chose 10 pairs of shoes to be photographed against a blank screen by someone else? I can think of nothing less stress inducing.

Crazy crazy shoes

From the Observer.. Graduates: a problem in four parts

Tanya de Grunwald has written a great article:

Have you noticed how swiftly online discussion about the UK’s “graduate problem” descends into a slanging match, even on civilised websites like this one? Mention “Mickey Mouse degrees” and watch students, lecturers and employers scratch each other’s eyes out. Everyone gets worked up but nothing is ever worked out. Journalists seem no clearer on the true cause of the problem they’re reporting. It’s the surge in the number of graduates. No, it’s rising tuition fees. Or the recession. Or unpaid internships. Or that we have somehow raised an entire generation of arrogant, grabby young things who don’t know the value of a day’s work. Er, what was the question again?

Her argument is thus:

  • Students think of univeristy as an investment to get them a job
  • Universities see themselves as facilitators of academic study
  • Employers think university should equip people with key skills to do jobs (“They refuse to hire candidates who aren’t work-ready, hence the unpaid internships.”)

And finally…

  • Politicians see the grand picture of an educated workforce equalling a strong economy.

She concludes:

In my opinion, students should take a more active role in determining their future – and employers should return to hiring graduates on potential rather than experience. Universities should stop running degrees they know have no real value – and completely overhaul their careers advice services. Politicians should support payment for internships and keep tuition fees as low as possible until we can all promise school pupils that yes, going to university is definitely a good idea. With a fresh batch of 470,000 students set to finish their undergraduate studies this summer and a further 205,000 completing postgraduate courses, we have no time to lose.

We couldn’t agree more.

NB: She also runs a great website full of graduate career advice. Check it out here.

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.


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?


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.

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Interns Anonymous

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