Last Thursday I wrote a post about exploited journalism students. There are loads of them. I vowed to make a website so that those students could voice their anger at certain shoddy practices in the media without fear of ruining a career.
I still intend to do that. But in the days since that post, I’ve received two emails. They are sparklingly positive. So much so, in fact, I found myself thinking that yes, there really are some brilliant, generous and sincere working journalists out there. Journalists who know how it feels to be starting out, scraping together what few pennies you have in pursuit of a dream.
And above them, entire newspapers have a culture of nurturing. Like a football club with a great youth system, some newspapers and media companies thrive on their ability to harness young talent into something great.
They need to be championed. The site — I need help coding it. Any semi-experts, please get in touch — will put as much emphasis on the good as it does the bad.
The first emailer, Scott Lewis, wrote to me on Sunday with this glowing report about the Sunderland Echo:
I read about your latest project on journalism.co.uk, and I’d like to share a positive experience I had while studying at the University of Sunderland between 2003 and 2006.
During my time there I spent three years working for the Sunderland Echo on a fairly regular basis. In all that time, never once did I feel exploited in any way. Quite the opposite, in fact – the resident staff made me feel just like a member of the team, would critique my work, explain what was wrong with it and help me to improve (yet would never be patronising), and taught me just as much – if not more – about journalism as I was learning in my classes. I never recieved a penny for the work I did, but I consider myself a much stronger journalist with a much wider-ranging portfolio than I would have been had I not been given this opportunity.
I understand how widespread student exploitation is right now, and many people warned me against it, but I feel the time I spent at the Echo was completely worthwhile, and I’d recommend them to any student looking to get some newsroom experience.
I don’t know if that helps you any, but I wanted to write to point out that not all voluntary work experience gigs are bad or exploitative. In fact, in my case it was one of the best decisions I ever made.
Good luck with the rest of the study, and all the best,
The second emailer hasn’t yet offered her permission, but if they do, I’ll share.
So, well done to the Sunderland Echo. And thanks, Scott, for getting in touch.