Wednesday, July 22, 2009

Why Paying Interns Matters

This report about interns and professional mobility focuses on British journalism but has, I think, implications for American journalists as well.
In particular:
General secretary Jeremy Dear said: "This report shows how the use of unpaid internships has undermined the diversity of our profession. It is good to see the government recognising the problem and we are now looking for swift action to ensure the financial barriers to entering journalism are lowered."

For many years, newspapers offered paid internships while magazines did not, with the result that the latter tended to draw well-off kids whose families could afford to support them for the summer. This had an impact on not only racial/ethnic diversity but also class and income. I recall chatting with magazine recruiters at various journalism conventions, some of whom bemoaned the lack of diversity of candidates while sometimes seeming not to see the root cause of that problem.

Newspapers escaped that to a certain extent by paying people. But since many newspapers have stopped paying students, the long-term result could well be damaging to the overall newsroom mix.

And this odd system is spreading, where parents are expected to bear the costs of corporations' failure to develop their own employees.

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