Archive for the 'Journalism' Category

Can’t the Sunday Times pay their fashion interns?

Someone emailed us a link to this shocker of an advert from the Sunday Times – this seems wrong for the following reasons:

  • The intern will be working full-time without a salary for a minimum of 6 months.
  • The advert is clearly trying to avoid NMW regulations by stating that the internship is only suitable for students on a year out, looking for placements. Aside from the fact that we basically think students on placements should be paid if they are doing work (which common sense suggests they will be after a month at a work place), it’s kind of strange that they’re only advertising half way through the academic year – if the intern completed the suggested 9 months, they would be working up till November, which is past the end of the academic year.

If you think this looks a bit dodgy too, please tweet your displeasure…

Women’s mags: not all lip gloss and smiles

I have been interning at a variety of magazines since graduating from university last year. Currently I’ve been seeking internships in women’s mags as that is my chosen field. It’s a really competitive area, but when I managed to land a 5 week placement with a well-known mag – ohmygod so excited! I knew the name would look great on my CV. I was super excited but that excitement quickly wore off once I got there.

My first day, I was eased in. Logged in the new beauty products that had come in for the team, called and e-mailed some PRs about samples and press releases and the (never done before) activity of getting the lunch for the boss. I know as an intern I’m expected to do the dirty work, do the things the paid can’t be bothered to do but really? I was interning in a building which happens to have an assortment of food places situated at the bottom – several floors down. It would have taken her FIVE minutes to get in the lift, walk out the door and into the take-away but nope, instead she handed me £10 and asked me to buy her some lunch. I was cool with that, thinking it was a one off – it happened again the next day too.

Now the beauty team claim to REALLY need an intern, they are supposed to be an important part of the team. First of all, my desk was nowhere near the teams, I was given no temporary e-mail, had to use my own personal one which created problems at later dates when contacting PRs. The team were nice enough but the work…there wasn’t much.  At a push, I was busy for half to 3/4 of the morning with logging the new products and then would have to spend most of the day asking for something to do.

During the time I actually spent with the team I asked to leave early on a few occasions – once because of the riots, another for a family member’s birthday and I was REALLY sick in my third (and final) week. They knew I wasn’t feeling too hot, but they didn’t care. I was told I couldn’t leave early on a Wednesday (it was blatant I wasn’t well and shouldn’t have really gone in but I did still) until I had finished everything. I finished as much as I possibly could and was finally allowed to leave at 3pm – not really worth it but I was home and in bed by 4:30pm. I called in sick for the Thursday as I wanted to get better but when I e-mailed my superior to say I was feeling rough, I received an angry reply about how I’d had too much time off and asked to send over the information for some props for a shoot – not ‘hope you feel better, see you Friday.’

I didn’t even rest on that day as I was on the phone trying to find a prop, which was much harder to find than anticipated. The Beauty Director finally e-mailed me at 4pm to say ‘don’t worry, we have some – for free.” WHAT, I’d spent the entire day on the computer and phone, not sleeping and resting to battle my cold. 

The Friday morning I came in to a desk piled up with products – completely unnecessary to be honest. They could have neatly put all of the new bags to one side of my desk but they had just thrown them all over the chair and computer area which meant I had to spend the first ten minutes of my morning cleaning up the desk so I could actually GET to my computer. The team arrived gone 10am and I was promptly asked to go downstairs to get a Starbucks for one of the writers – a Starbucks she would have just walked past. I spent the afternoon of that Friday doing absolutely nothing, I’d asked around 5 times for something but there was nothing.

The icing on the cake was that the director strolled into the office at 5:30pm after being on a shoot all day and interviewing a celebrity. Instead of talking to me, she was met by one of the fashion team where they tried on some new shoes for a wedding and gossiped about the celebrity etc – during office hours. The previous day the director had asked to chat with me, now if it was something important you might put it higher on your list than trying on your Jimmy Choos and gushing about your wedding next year!

I left the office gone 6pm as I had just been sitting idly for the previous two hours, waiting to talk to my superior. She was busy chatting about a famous singer so I didn’t see it my place to interrupt an important conversation…I checked my e-mail that Friday evening to find I had been fired. She had emailed me at 7:30pm to say I had made dozens of mistakes (she only gave one example), that I had asked to leave early too many times (3 times over 3 weeks) and in general I wasn’t enthusiastic or hard working enough. 

I was GUTTED. I take my placements as a job, professional and I always do my best. She hadn’t bothered to even say hello to me when she eventually strolled in yet I was being told I was the one not making an effort? She had even made it seem like I was trying to steal expensive products form the cupboard (wouldn’t even imagine doing such a thing). I replied to her e-mail that night but guess what? It’s been nearly two weeks and she hasn’t contacted me. I had to phone the assistant in the end to get some answers – I didn’t think you could really be booted from an internship for not being chatty enough. 

I would love to warn people about this person but unfortunately I can’t do it on my own blog without sabotaging my future career. If I had been making obvious mistakes then why had no one informed me before? I have always thought that internships are for learning and to be taught but I wasn’t taught anything. The only thing I’ve come away with is my confidence in a pile of rubble. They didn’t help me in the slightest and I just needed to get this out there!

 

Interns should get what they want or else walk out

An anonymous contributor sent us the following article – the title might have unpleasant connotations but the intern in question is talking about getting a positive experience that will boost your CV…rather than a flat screen TV

As a complete nobody hailing from the arse-end of Nowhere, I empathise with those looking to do an internship, particularly those looking to get into journalism, public affairs and politics.

The principle of getting up in the morning and doing a full day’s work, often for protracted periods and for the sum total of zero pence is now so firmly entrenched in our economy that companies will factor in interns and rotate them as though they were permanent staff. The employer knows full well that there is no job for the poor sucker at the end of it, but the prize is dangled before them anyway. It can be soul destroying. But, done right, interning can also be fantastic. Allow me to elaborate.

 After graduating from university, I took on a piss-poor admin job. My boss was, to coin a swear, a knobjoy and the pay was appalling. Happily, the business folded and I found myself gainfully unemployed. With a few pennies (though not many) set aside, I decided I had nothing to lose and, accepting the dire state of the jobs market for mediocre arts graduates, threw myself into interning.

I haven’t eaten since, but I’ve met some genuinely lovely people, proved that I can dress myself, and gained experience that simply wouldn’t have been open to me if the internships hadn’t been there. That’s not to say, of course, that the experience hasn’t wildly differed with each employer. As with the real world, there are both terrible employers and fantastic ones, and the lot of the intern, in my view, rests on the understanding and dedication of the employer in making your time worthwhile.

My first internship was a two-week stint with a national newspaper. As I’ve said, I’m no one of any note, so a place on a paper seemed like a dream. I knew I would bankrupt myself, but it seemed too good an opportunity to turn down. Told to turn up in ‘smart casual’ and to ‘read up on my current affairs’, I expected to enter a professional working environment filled with vibrant, enthusiastic staff ready to make use of my in-depth knowledge of politics and forensic analytical mind.

 In reality, of the one and a half weeks I spent there, about three hours were spent doing anything of use. I didn’t have a desk, any tasks or indeed any kind of introduction to the permanent members of staff, things often seen as prerequisites for, y’know, helping a company in any way. I loitered like a cheap whore around the desks of writers I’d previously admired and fired out plenty of suggestive e-mails seeing if my services were required. Alas, it was not to be, and with each expenses-unpaid day I felt less and less like a human being.

Yet, while it would be easy to sob into my Tesco-own cereal (we interns dream of Jordan’s Crisp) about this state of affairs, I actually found the whole experience empowering. Seeing a disorganised sinking ship of a paper laid bare before my eyes shattered a certain myth in my mind about journalism. The knowledge that I was still young, (reasonably) clever and qualified and that this particular paper had stuck two fingers up to my offer of free labour, felt perversely liberating. As each wasted hour on Twitter ticked by, I figured it was actually their loss. In the end, I stopped turning up to the internship. No one even noticed I’d gone, while their inability to remember my name means I still get a reference, and don’t look back.

My next internship was definitely a gamble. But by financially ruining the people I love, and through a combination of putting on a posh voice and exaggerating my limited achievements, I somehow wound up as an intern for an established radio station. The new internship felt less like an extended, demeaning tour of an office and more like an actual, useful work placement. I was still earning nothing, but from day one I had a gut feeling that I would come away from the experience immeasurably more employable. Unlike the paper, I’d been sat down to a formal interview, been given a desk, a proper company e-mail account, responsibility, training and, heaven forbid, I was treated like a colleague rather than a massive inconvenience.

Within a week I knew the names of everyone in the office and they even knew mine. They respected my opinions, answered my questions and gave me serious responsibilities, not just menial tasks to keep me occupied. I got the genuine sense they understood the bargain we were making; as a graduate, I was ready to work hard for them, provided I wasn’t being taken for a ride.

 Let me be clear: in an ideal world, employers would risk taking on unproven graduates with raw potential. They’d spot your talent and invest the resources in training you up to be the best you can be. But we don’t live in that ideal world. We live in an economy where more and more graduates are competing with each other for lower and lower paid jobs. That’s an awful reality, but it’s reality nonetheless.

As an intern, what you really need to remember is that you are an equal partner in the experience: you owe them nothing, and the real reason that you’re doing this is for your own career. If you’re ignored, undervalued and treated like dirt by people, walk out. You will lose nothing but a few days, and your confidence will actually grow. If a company wastes your time, throw a spanner in their works and waste theirs.

If, however, a company seems willing to nurture your potential and is willing to take advantage of your generous offer of free labour, providing you with proper advice, the occasional dressing down and a glowing reference then, even if they can’t offer you a job, the whole experience will have been worth a punt.

 Nobody wants to work for nothing, so my simple advice would be don’t. If you’re making yourself skint, make sure it’s worth your while in other ways, and remember that not all internships are the same.

 

 

Living to be the next ‘in-turn’

I don’t like the word ‘Intern’; I’d prefer to call us something along the lines of ‘Company Observers’ or ‘Spectators of Workplaces,’ for that better describes what we do.

We come in, meet the team, receive a desk and sometimes even a phone number and email address by which we are contactable.

We drink the company coffee, learn by example and if we’re really lucky, we actually contribute rather than merely examine the colour scheme of the office, or the efficiency of their recycling procedures.

The word ‘Intern’ suggests to me that we ‘in turn’ might… make the coffee, get a by-line, be offered a job…? I suppose I should acknowledge the fact ‘intern’ doesn’t stem from the combining of the two above words. Such is life.

As an Intern, you never actually admit to your powerlessness. On speaking to clients or companies over the phone, you confidently lead them into a false sense of security. “My name’s Laura and I work at the ‘insert your company here’”.

Again, you live and breathe as though you were a tax paying, benefits accruing, hard-working, company employee.

It doesn’t matter that, in fact, the only thing you share with your ‘colleagues’ is the fact that you buy your lunch at Waitrose; they use their neat salary, you use your £5 lunch allowance, keen to maintain appearances of grandeur and secretly determined to spend every penny of your essentially free lunch.

When you do get a by-line, it stares back at you from the page, as incredulous as to how it got there as you are.

No matter, it is there for the world (or in some cases a slightly smaller percentile) to see, absorb and ultimately judge. It’s slightly like hanging your undies on the washing line on the day your brother invites all his friends over for a beer and BBQ.

Building up a portfolio of work is, I think, the same as compiling a photo album.

It’s self-absorbing, ego-boosting (like having a great tan line in that photo) and it is that all important proof that you have not simply wiled away the summer watching re-runs of Dawson’s Creek and Hollyoaks.

It’s something to look back on in years to come and show the family. “Here’s what I did that summer after I graduated,” says an older, and more wrinkled you flicking through pages of neat prose and copy.

Hours and hours and hundreds more hours of unpaid work. “That’s great Granny. Can I go on my skateboard now?” Perhaps not quite the reaction you were after.

New Statesman- have things changed?

I did a internship at the New Statesman in November 2008, it was unpaid, and we got our travel refunded.  While I was there I was given hardly any work to do, and neither was  my fellow intern.  It was soul destroyingly boring. I didn’t realise at the time, but there had just been a large number of redundancies and that is possibly why the office was so odd, quiet and depressed feeling.  The woman in charge of us was nice, but over worked and completely unsupported, and she was unwilling to delegate any work to the interns as I think she felt it would be more work to explain what she wanted then do it herself.  As there was no formal role, training or anything for interns, this happened a lot – with only the most menial jobs being given to us – and hardly any of them at that. Most of the day  I spent reading old copies of the New Statesman and despairing.

The Tragic Case of the Perrenial Intern

In 2009 I graduated in Philosophy from a ‘red brick’ university. In hindsight I can concede that throughout my education my attitudes towards finding work were naive and ill informed. Like many young people I made the decision to study my subject of choice aged 17-18. As we know the economy was then in a rather healthier state, meaning that for a number of years graduates from good universities in all subjects had encountered less trouble finding employment. Consequently the advice I received from school and home was to either choose a subject which would lead directly to a career I was keen to pursue, or if I did not yet have a particular career in mind, to study a subject I had enjoyed at school. I chose the latter – accepting the prevailing “any degree is a good degree” philosophy.

Upon graduating I immediately began teaching English as a second language at a school in my home city of Manchester. I knew this was not a long term solution and began to look into a career in the media. I stopped teaching and began writing to local newspapers eventually securing a two week internship with a regional magazine near my home. This was my first taste of working as an unpaid intern and it was not especially interesting. The editor rarely gave me any work to do so I spent most of my time staring at a computer screen, browsing the Internet. It was not entirely useless and I could have perhaps been more proactive, however I sensed a mutual understanding that I was to stay out of the way as far as possible.

After failing to secure any more journalism experience in Manchester I eventually got another two week internship for a small charity working as a ‘social media intern.’ Once again I quickly understood my role and kept out of the way. This was my least productive experience in terms of skills gained – the tasks I was given were so pointless and mundane that I didn’t feel I learned anything. By this point I was beginning to feel demoralised.

Some time later I got the opportunity to intern as a Media Assistant for a national campaign. I worked closely with the regional coordinator and felt the experience was positive. I gained real skills including pitching to the media, writing press releases, communicating with MPs and I was paid a daily stipend of £10 on top of expenses. The internship lasted 3 months and by the end I felt more confident about securing paid work. However this proved difficult and I soon began to feel that I had exhausted most of my opportunities in Manchester.

Up until this point I had been living with my parents and I was fortunate that they were willing to support me financially when a month later I secured another three month internship with a PR firm in London. I fully expected this to be my last – in part because the firm had assured me there was a high probability that I would be offered a job at the end of the period. The interview had been ridiculously and unnecessarily gruelling so I was surprised to discover I was merely the latest addition to a team of four graduates in a press office run almost exclusively on intern power. Unfortunately, the office was lead by a most patronising and disagreeable woman who was of a similar age to the rest of us and appeared to delight in making us feel worthless and subordinate.

In one sense the experience was positive as I gained important media and public relations experience, yet much of it was self taught and I was offered little training or support. Naturally all the interns felt a little exploited when, one by one, we were told the firm could not afford to take us on when our respective three month periods expired. Evidently they had never intended to offer us proper employment, a fact which did not hit me as hard as one of the other interns who had left a good job for the opportunity of a career break in communications. To date this is my first and only experience of blatant and unadulterated dishonesty. I made a personal pledge not to apply for any more internships so as to avoid becoming yet another tragic case of the perennial intern.

Since then three months have passed and I have been unable to secure a job despite attending several interviews. At the time of writing I am about to embark on yet another internship. Nevertheless I am positive about the future. I feel liberated from my previously unrealistic career expectations and have undoubtedly learned a lot in the past year and a half. It is not that I no longer retain the same ambitions as before rather that now I realise how hard I will have to work to realise them, and how much time it will take.

My experience as an intern has been mixed. I have gained some good skills and like most I have had some unpleasant experiences. However I think it would be unfair and ungrateful of me to express bitterness – though I have in the past. Pursuing a career you like is not easy and nor should it be. There is a sense in which many graduates had unrealistic hopes about the ease with which they would walk into the career of their dreams. These were largely fuelled by the advice of previous generations who had lived and worked through happier times. The recession took many by surprise but we should remember that the healthy state of the economy which preceded it was abnormal, as was the ease with which middle class graduates, particularly in the arts, secured employment. I think that those campaigning for the rights of interns are fighting a noble cause – the system is in many ways profoundly unjust. I also think that interns (myself included) should refrain from expressing the sort of bitterness which could be and is often interpreted as privileged whining (‘I didn’t complete my degree to make coffee!’) – not least because it is counter productive to the wider cause, that of improving social mobility.

NUJ urges unpaid editorial interns to sue for back-pay

“The National Union of Journalists is urging those who have taken up unpaid editorial internships to get in touch and claim back unpaid wages”, as reported in Press Gazette.

NUJ general secretary Jeremy Dear said:

 A campaign drawing together trade unions and other organisations opposed to this cheap labour merry-go-round is now essential and we will play our part in the campaign to bring exploitative employers to book, using minimum wage legislation and other legal means, to steadily change internship culture from one of exploitation to one of genuine learning opportunities.

The union advises that former interns can claim up to six years after the event through the county courts. But it states that minimum wage rules do not apply to students on work experience placements – which are typically limited to one or two weeks.

So what are we all waiting for?!


Interns Anonymous

We want this website to be a forum for interns to share their experiences and discuss the ethics of unpaid employment. Most importantly, we want this site to be a place where YOU can tell us your story.

Disclaimer

Interns Anonymous accept no responsibility for the contents of the blog, comments or any other content on this site that is posted or provided by third parties. This website is designed to act as a forum for interns to share experiences and opinions about their work, therefore, we will not censor opinions we do not agree with. The opinions stated in blog contributions do not represent those of Interns Anonymous. We disclaim all liability for such content to the fullest extent permitted by law. If you have any queries please email us.

Enter your email address to subscribe to this blog and receive notifications of new posts by email.

Join 131 other followers


Follow

Get every new post delivered to your Inbox.

Join 131 other followers

%d bloggers like this: