New investigation into penny-pinching Dickensian employers

A government watchdog is to investigate whether companies are exploiting interns and using them as free labour – or perhaps they’ll just get one of their work experience kids to look into it for them.

The Low Pay Commission is expected to set guidelines on how long-term work experience students should be paid – hopefully the fact that they should be paid will be mentioned somewhere. Any progress will be a refreshing change for most interns I know, who are spending months on work experience placements with not a penny for their thoughts.

With a million graduates expected to line up in the rain for their dole money this winter many will be under immense pressure to do anything they can to stand out from their peers. Internships can seem like a Get Out of the Dole Quick card.

I’m in this position myself – last month I completed my postgraduate studies in print journalism and would love a career in writing. My work has been published by papers in Liverpool, Birmingham, Lancaster, Derby and Nottingham. But was I paid for the dozens of my features, exclusive news stories and reviews that were used? No chance.

Lately I’ve got the impression that it’s free labour turning the whole news world round. In one early morning news conference I attended, where news editors discuss what they plan to include in their pages each day, a freelance writer had sent in ‘a first class feature and a really good read’ – the editor’s words not mine. The editor asked if they wanted money for it and they did. The team agreed that unless it was free they weren’t interested.

Media outlets love me because I’ve only just graduated – it’s like having the words ‘desperate try-hard’ written on your forehead in flashing neon letters. Every day I am sent emails offering me the chance to work for a ‘unique and exciting’ publication or news team or film crew. I could spend two months behind a camera, a month helping a web team, two months designing a new e-magazine – I could master the industry – but only as an unpaid volunteer.

Unless you’re being supported heavily and eternally from the bank of mum and dad – and I’m not – jumping for internships like these is a bleak prospect. Who is to say you will finish a placement with anything other than a fat stack of rent bills and a final warning?

It’s tough for employers at the moment. Everyone is poor; no one is buying. But in turbulent times like these it is only right that they, of all people, shouldn’t touch what they can’t afford.


2 Responses to “New investigation into penny-pinching Dickensian employers”

  1. witackman Says:

    Gooood write up, Miss. And your hits! 105? It’s going global!

  2. sineadnolan2008 Says:

    OMG this is sooo true. I applied for an internship in Norwich a few months ago but couldnt take it because the bank of mum and dad said ultimately NO WAY. I am at home now sending out CVs to newspapers who I am asking to take me on for a day a week – for free of course so I can work another job at the same time. You are damn right about news being funded for free – it seems most of it truly is! Apart from the Indo noone has paid me a penny for my articles and news stories. As for a get out of the dole quick card – for me its more like a keep-sane card.. because without something, even unpaid work to help me through this recession (or whatever it is) I will lose the will to be a journalist forever!

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