Work experience: How was it for you?

City University postgraduate journalism students: click here to take part in our short survey

We’re approaching the final term of our journalism course at City University. By now most of us have completed two or more work experience placements as part of our course. Work placements are a vital part of our training, and offer opportunities to develop our skills that just can’t be recreated in the classroom. We’re grateful to all the journalists who’ve shared with us their experience, and offered their support, in the face of the constant time pressure under which they operate.

But while many of these placements are positive, most of us have experienced, or at least heard about, experiences that weren’t what they could have been.

When it comes to making a good work placement in journalism, there are necessarily some factors which can’t be controlled. An especially busy news agenda might make it difficult for journalists to find time to supervise interns. A rare quiet day in the newsroom might mean there’s nothing to do.

But some of the difficulties could be more easily overcome. Internships are often organised with a minimum of formality. Even in large organisations there can be little or no structure in place for the administration and support of work placements. The result is sometimes that there are differing expectations on the part of interns and employers; lines of supervision can be unclear; basic information may fail to be communicated. This leads to placements where neither the intern nor the employer gains as much as they could from the experience.

In order to address this situation, Exploited Interns is proposing an Interns’ Charter. This will be a short document which sets out what is reasonable for interns to expect from their employer — and what employers can expect from their interns. We’ll be seeking views from our fellow City University journalism students, and from employers in the industry. We will then publish the Charter here and invite students, employers and other stakeholders to add their names in support. We hope that the Charter will be of mutual benefit to future students and to employers.

The Charter will be intended for students carrying out work placements as part of postgraduate journalism courses at City University, but we hope that if successful the charter might provide a model of use to students at other universities and in other industries.

As a first step, we’re asking our fellow City University postgraduate journalism students to take part in a short survey about their work placements. We’ll publish the results here and use them to inform the content of our Interns’ Charter.

This won’t solve all the problems around internships in our industry. Others are doing excellent work in various areas — not least towards ending unpaid internships. But where work placements are undertaken as part of a formal postgraduate course, we feel there is an opportunity for relatively simple steps to be taken which would be of universal benefit.

City University postgraduate journalism students: take part in the survey here

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