The NUJ and Internaware’s advice on unpaid internships

By Media Reform Coalition / Friday March 29, 2013 Read More
By Carolina Are Representatives from the National Union of Journalists and Internaware took part in an advice panel on unpaid internships on Friday at City University. Donnacha Delong, Immediate Past President of the NUJ, and Gus Baker, from Internaware, advised City’s students on what they can ask for and expect from during an internship. With an eye on the media’s changing market, both Mr Delong and Mr Baker told the students to be very clear with employers. Mr Baker suggested students should always work “on their terms” even while working unpaid. He said: “Get something on paper. Get your name on the publication. They are not your bosses if they are not paying your wage.” Mr Delong said the NUJ campaigned last year to start a ban on the advertisement of unpaid internships. He said: “Working unpaid for three months or five months or a year is illegal.” Gus Baker said unpaid internships are “all too common” – as well as “exclusive, exploitative and illegal”.  He said: “There are clear breaches of the law going on. The Government give us lots of smiley faces and pats on the head, but getting them to do anything is really difficult.” According to Mr Delong, unpaid internships’ biggest impact on the media is how they restrict who can afford to enter the profession. He said: “London’s social and ethnic mix is not reflected in the media: only white middle class people can afford to work unpaid, because they are funded by their parents.” Mr Baker said students should try and get paid internships, however hard it is, and build transferable skills. He said: “It’s more worth it to go for a paid job that is not your dream job rather than on an unpaid internship for ages. You are taken more seriously in a paid internship, because the employer’s finances get in the picture.” Mr Delong said the media needs “rebirth”. While referring to the situation that sparked the London riots, he said: “We need to have a media that reflects the community as much as possible. The Tottenham community feel their story hasn’t been told, they are not represented in the media.” Addressing the audience, Mr Delong said: “It is very clear that the decline in journalism has gone step by step with the decline in quality. Think of how you can contribute in rebuilding the media to improve this situation.”