Newsquest’s controversial plan to charge students to produce free content for their websites “devalues everything professional journalists do,” according to one journalism lecturer.
Jo Wiltshire, who teaches journalism students at the University of Hertfordshire, told The Media Blog: “Asking for charges and fees just to build a portfolio is sending out a message that the work of journalists and writers is worth less than nothing.”
Other lecturers have also been quick to criticise Newsquest’s plans today.
Beth Brewster, head of journalism at Kingston University, tweeted: “I advise my journalism students not to give away their skill, creativity and labour for free. Asking them to pay for bylines is outrageous.”
“Newsquest should be paying the student writers,” she added. “I can’t believe anyone ever thought this plan was a good idea.”
Another journalism lecturer told The Media Blog she is “fuming” at Newsquest’s plans which she described as “unbelievable”.
The National Union of Journalists (NUJ) is also unimpressed. Michelle Stanistreet, the NUJ’s general secretary, said in a statement:
“While Newsquest is sacking professional staff on its titles, it is charging journalist students for writing articles for them. The unpaid intern has become the scourge of the media profession – now Newsquest is asking for journalist students to actually pay for a by-line. The company?s cynicism beggars belief, and preys on young people desperate to get a break in a competitive industry. Where is the commitment to quality journalism? They should be providing journalist students with a meaningful work experience and if their articles are good enough to be published, they are good enough to be paid for.”
Some have said students don’t have to take Newsquest up on its offer but in the hugely competitive world of journalism, as we have seen with unpaid internships, there will be those who probably will allow themselves to be exploited by the promise of a first foot on the career ladder. But exploiting free labour does nobody any good in the long term. It undermines the job security of professional journalists, closes doors to those who cannot afford to give their work away for free and inevitably damages the quality of journalism.
Wiltshire said: “In-demand industries such as the media have long been in a position where they can hold inexperienced young people to ransom. By pushing that even further, asking for charges and fees just to build a portfolio, it is turning a dynamic and proud career choice into a vanity project for those whose families can bankroll it.”
Newsquest gives student journalists a “unique chance” to work for free