Posts Tagged 'internships'

New Statesman – A second opinion

When I started, I knew I was already going to be out of pocket. My train fare exceeded what I would get back from the magazine’s “London travel expenses only” policy.  So I was actually paying £10 a day to come in and work. More fool me perhaps, but I thought experience at a national title would be worth the £300 + hit to my bank account.

The interns there had a number of time-consuming but important jobs. The dullest was uploading agency content to the NS website from someone in India who aggregated the contents of the main newspapers as they went live at 12-1am. This job took three editorial interns between 3-4 hours a day to do. It was drudgework. So a number of the articles on the NS website are there for next to nothing, because they pay an Indian a paltry wage to generate the words, which are pilfered from work done by another newspaper, then uploaded for free by an unpaid intern. All this from a left-wing magazine, which frequently calls for social justice, and rails against the iniquities of globalisation.

On I think five occasions I was made to come in at 6am in order to prepare the daily mail shot to subscribers, comprising a daily digest of articles. Again, no byline, no real supervision, but it was a necessary job and it required time, all to the benefit of the business.

Another task was transcription. All interviews while I was there were transcribed by editorial interns. Typing at a fair clip an interview might take an hour or two to get down. Of course, only a tiny fraction of the interview would be used in published copy. But given the resource was free it’s certainly a luxury for a journalist to have a pool of amanuenses to hand.

More generally, the experience itself was a bit of shambles from the first day, with no proper introductions, tour etc. The overriding impression is of a conveyor belt of free labour, doing all the churn work, so paid editorial staff can get on with producing the print copy.

And at the end no exit interview, no feedback, no tips for the future, just a “thanks, bye” and an offer that if I wanted to submit articles, they might publish them online  – (again unpaid).  It took around six weeks and several rounds of chasing to get my (partial) expenses reimbursed.

But it wasn’t all bad.  Editorial interns were invited to the main weekly editorial meeting. We also got to post an occasional article with a byline (online).  If you get a full-time job there, the NS seems like a great place to work. The team are generally very friendly, and happy to take a couple of minutes to talk something through.  But that’s about it.

My six weeks there were enough to put me off doing any further work experience. Handing more of my own money (and time) over to another media business to help keep them afloat is untenable and manifestly unfair.

I have no doubt that the NS is to a large extent financially reliant on interns.  My estimate from having talked to other interns is that around 1/3 of the editorial staff at any one time are unpaid. Not only do they readily do all the necessary drudgework, they help to depress the wages of paid journalists there. In the end only a small fraction of interns get a job.

How can the management of a publication with the New Statesman’s pedigree defend what they are doing? I can’t think of a better media organization to take a lead and start paying interns, or provide them with a sufficiently useful learning experience that they don’t have to.

Internships at the heart of new social mobility policy

We’re obviously excited. Nick Clegg’s social mobility policy is taking unpaid internships to task. Articles in The Telegraph and The Guardian, as well as a report on the Today programme have underlined the importance of making sure internships are available to all, not just those whose parents can afford to put them up or ‘whisper in the ear’ of their mate at the ‘tennis club’ (does anyone actually do that?)

From the BBC:

Deputy Prime Minister Nick Clegg says he wants to stop people getting on in life purely because of “who they know”.

As he launches the government’s social mobility strategy, Mr Clegg said no-one should get an unfair advantage because their parents have “met somebody at the tennis club or the golf club”.

He is planning to end all informal work placements in Whitehall – and will encourage businesses to do the same.

From the Telegraph:

He urged firms to make internships – often a vital gateway to a chosen career – more transparent and financially viable to the less well-off.

That meant covering out-of-pocket expenses or offering a wage.

Companies are being asked to sign a new compact including a commitment to ensuring fair access to internships.

Whitehall is set to lead the way, with Civil Service internships advertised formally from 2012.

This is fantastic. For an Internship campaign group this is surely the equivalent of Christmas. But we weren’t called ‘admirably bolshie’ for nothing. The devil will be in the detail. If I was Harriet Harman – due to question Clegg on this at 12 – I would question and ask:

Most importantly, if you read the report, detail on NMW is hazey at best.

We will continue to encourage employers to open up their employment methods, and we are asking business to offer internships openly and transparently and provide financial support to ensure fair access. This financial support could consist of either payment of at least the appropriate national minimum wage rate, or alternatively payment of reasonable out of pocket expenses in compliance with national minimum wage laws.

We want to improve understanding of the application of national minimum wage legislation to internships and ensure that employers comply with it. Where an individual is entitled to the minimum wage they should recieve it and we take failure to do so very seriously. We are updating our guidance on payment of work experience including internships to ensure that employers and individuals are clear about their rights and responsibilities. We will ensure enforcement of the national minimum wage continues to be effective, and resources are focused where they will have maximum impact. Her Majesty’s Revenue and Customs are currently considering targeted enforcement in sectors where internships are commonplace, with a view to carrying out enforcement activity in 2011/12. Young people who feel they have had their minimum wage rights abused are encouraged to contact our confidential Pay and Work Rights Helpline on 0800 917 2368.

We hope this does not mean an update on guidance which allows employers to get out of paying interns minimum wage. The law as it stands is currently very clear. If you work set outs, doing set tasks then you are due minimum wage.

The Independent writes:

HM Revenue & Customs will launch a crackdown in professions such as law and journalism where work experience is commonplace, to ensure that people are paid the national minimum wage or receive out of pocket expenses.

Ironically – the Indy is currently being taken to court for not paying an intern. Crucially the or receive out of pocket expenses” offers an easy get out clause.

Anyway – lets not be picky just yet. Lets celebrate that internships are center stage in the news agenda for at least one day.

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?!

Sick of this SHIT

First of all I would like to say this website is great….for a not so great situation… well I have resorted to lying on my CV because I don’t understand how in order to be accepted on a internship I have to have ‘6 months experience’ when no one is giving me any experience. Don’t get me wrong I do have some experience but I’m in a catch 22 situation because I REFUSE to do any more unpaid work experience. I am a 22 year old woman who has graduated from University not a 16 year old who has no idea of what it’s like to work in an office.

I am looking for EVERYTHING but still can’t get anywhere. When you get rejected for a Sales Assistant job in Boots you know times are hard. I have been to job courses, had my CV checked over a million times, but still getting pipped to the post…

However, I am really pissed off with one PR agency (time for a career in social work you say..?) basically I had an interview with the head of the department I was applying for and with another manager of some sort and after the interview I asked: “when will I be told of the outcome of the interview”. They said “within a week”… um it’s now been about a month. Within that time I phoned one of them who was conveniently ‘in a meeting’ and even spoke to a HR manager and was told they would get back to me so basically they are fobbing me off. I refuse to let this go because this is not the first time this has happened to me and I think it is highly RUDE the way I’ve been treated.

Regardless the search still continues but I think I’m through with this…need a career change ASAP! (i.e. where the money is at) I feel like University is one big rip off… we have all been conned… They are stooping us to unthinkable measures (i.e. Vicky Harrisson) Something needs to change……
I don’t even know what to do because I’m living with my mum rent free and I feel awful because I know she is struggling and feel like I should be doing something to help but no one wants to give me a job… I even tried to sign up with an agency (by the way I am signed up to 5 in which no one gives a shit) which was for admin work… they told me flatly I need 6 months experience to a years experience. I don’t understand because admin work can be done with your eyes closed…not exactly brain surgery….but I just don’t know anymore….I’m surprised I am not a crack addict/alcoholic yet…..it has been too long now… *sigh*

A little bit of media coverage

Never shy of sticking our heads above the parapet, Interns Anonymous has been involved in two media features in as many days.

We helped with the research for this great New Statesman article by Rowenna Davis.

Charlie Sonnex works the night shift at Sainsbury’s. Last year, he worked next to Andy Coulson, the Conservatives’ director of communications, as an intern at the party’s headquarters in Westminster. He wanted to stay on, but after nine months of working unpaid, he couldn’t afford it. “All the interns there had rich parents and savings, so I guess the office just had enough applications to keep it going.

Sound familiar? If so why not take our survey for parliamentary interns?

The NS isn’t adverse to hiring unpaid interns itself. The phrase “run on free labour” has crossed our path before. Good on them for the publishing this article though.

We can also be seen discussing internships and social mobility on an episode of Working Lunch (no longer presented by Adrian Chiles, much to my disappointment). See Tuesday’s episode, about 8 minutes in.

Education Secretary champions Internships – but who can afford them?

Via our friends at the Arts Group, David Lammy thinks internships are the way to solve graduate unemployment:

In response to growing concerns over graduate employment (or lack thereof) David Lammy championed Internships and volunteering as access routes into jobs:

“Of course students may be concerned, which is why we are working hard to show that real opportunities are available to them including work, further study, volunteering and Internships. Internships are great way for graduates to kick start their careers by gaining the valuable skills and work experience at a time when they face a more competitive job market.”

Yes David, ‘a great way’ for those who can afford to be exploited by organizations violating the National Minimum Wage. Thanks a bunch. Welcome to the only government who simultaneously claims to champion social mobility whilst also using unpaid work as a strategy for streaming graduates for recruitment.

Can’t really argue with that… 


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’


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