Journalism work experience: worth it in the end?

Charlotte Williams tells Exploited Interns her experience in journalism

I started on my journey to become a journalist at 14 years old when I made my own school newspaper with the help of a local newspaper editor. The school project led to my first work placement and I have to say that many of the work placements I’ve undertaken in the nine years since then were a pleasurable experience. Yes, it would be nice to get paid and yes, sometimes I sit in an office and grumble (in my head) that I am doing the same job as everyone else in the room and I am not getting paid and yes! I do think “Why is life so unfair? When will my turn come to get a proper job?” But in my experience, more good has come out of it than not, so I have kept going and resolved to put up and shut up.

So let’s get the negatives out of the way. At most of the places where I have undertaken work experience I have never been paid, or even received expenses. At one big magazine organisation, I did in fact receive expenses, but of all the placements I feel I got the least out of this one. The company was too large, there was not much opportunity for writing and there was more of a sense of “You are here to make the tea and photocopy and that is it.”

On the other hand, in other organisations, where I have really felt a part of the team, achieved bylines, felt appreciated and actually did the same work as competently as others in the office…I was not paid.

So what is the best outcome on work experience? To get paid or get a by-line? Well, both would be nice, but the aim is to get experience and improve your eventual employability, so I have to go with the latter. You never know: do well and impress, and it might actually lead to a job.

This may sound like little compensation for the many rounds of work experience, but it happened to me. I had a two week placement at a weekly newspaper and at the end of each week I just kept asking to come back. I ended up staying there for most of the rest of the year and they started paying me. It eventually came to an end due to a lack of money in the company but I did still keep a role as a freelancer. If it happened to me, it can happen to anyone – just keep going and keep working hard!

(Charlotte Williams is not using her real name)

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