Call for work experience guidelines

The “exploitation” of people on work experience at national papers was highlighted by the Mother of Chapel at The Independent.

Holding a copy of the newspaper’s new travel magazine Independent Traveller, Katherine Simon said two bylined articles in it were written by people on work experience.

She said: “This has been such a problem for us. Work placements are often being used at The Independent and The Independent on Sunday as a method of free staffing.

“With my desk, travel, there was an opening for an editorial assistant but the job was being done week-in, weekout, by editorial placements.

“In the past month there have been no fewer than five work experience placements working on my desk and there are only five staff on the desk.”

A motion tabled by Simon encouraged NUJ chapels to reach formal agreements with management over how work experience should be handled.

She said: “Richer students hang around for weeks on end and have more access to jobs when they come along.

“There are legal implications for potentially poorly researched stories which we don’t have time to research ourselves.”

Jeffrey Robson, from Canary Wharf NUJ branch, said: “I know of a pregnant literary editor who in the run-up to Christmas had seven sacks of books to go through. The attitude of management was ‘get work experience to do it’.

“Young people want to join our wonderful profession. Let’s make sure their first experience of journalism is a healthy one with proper safeguards and training.”

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