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April 7, 2008

Greenslade on working-class journalists

By Dave Lee STD

Here’s a debate that strikes particularly close to the bone: Can working-class school-leavers get jobs in journalism?

I’ve just finished a great placement at Sky News. Wonderful experience. But, as is so often the case with placements, expenses are not covered.

I’m lucky — my Dad works for London Underground. I get really cheap fares. My commute — from Huntingdon, near Cambridge — cost about £15 all-in by the time I’d reached the Sky News Centre in Osterley. Not a horrific amount, but that did mean £150 on travel for the length of my placement.

Imagine if I hadn’t got that cheap card? My commute would have cost a lot more. I’d have probably found somewhere to stay down there — which would have cost a great deal too.

The point is, it’s an expensive business. But, without the experience I’d stand absolutely no chance of having a career at the end of it. So it’s no wonder that so many jobs are reserved for the rich among us.

I’ve seen some journalism job websites advertising year-long internships for up to a YEAR unpaid. Incredible. I can’t afford to not work for a fortnight — let alone a year. Crazy. A friend at a local newspaper told me she worked a year for free, before finally getting a full time job. Her salary? £14,000.

Shameful. How can journalism claim to be the ‘voice of the people’ when really, when it comes down to it, the ‘people’ can’t get jobs.

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