Show journalism students the moneyJan 14th, 2013 | By joegrimm | Category: News
Michigan State University
School of Journalism
As a journalism professor, almost every week I receive email from people who want me to hook them up with students who will work for nothing.
Here are excerpts from some of those emails:
This “is one of the largest college news platforms in the country with over 500 writers covering topics from National Politics to Local Entertainment and we’re opening up applications to students at Michigan State University for our writing internship starting in January.
“Students who are selected as writers . . . will have the opportunity to learn from our experienced staff, get their work featured on our partners’ sites (Huffington Post, USA Today College and College Humor, to name a few) and even earn cash prizes. If you know any students who would benefit from such an opportunity, please feel free to have them email me directly . . .”
I am “Founder and CEO of a new free social network website for college students . . . As of Thanksgiving Day; 2012; the website is currently up and running in our soft launch mode at about 95% complete. We launched the site with minimal users in order to work out the kinks and add some material that we have yet to finalize. The site will be fully functional well before the start of the spring semester. Over the next four weeks we will be doing our best to getting out word about the site. This includes reaching out to individuals such as yourself about letting your students know about doing internships with us starting with your upcoming 2013 spring semester.
“Please continue to read through the email below on our letterhead to see why I think your students will get good use out of using us as part of an internship program. . . .”
“We were hoping you could pass along this email to your members or anyone you may think is interested, as it’s a great opportunity for anyone seeking amazing experience in the media industry through management, journalism, sales, and marketing internships. If you have any questions, please let me know!”
Well, I do have questions.
How is emailing off content from one’s dorm room or apartment as good as an internship? How experienced are the editors who receive the copy and how much feedback do they give? What are the chances of success for these ventures if there is little investment in content? Who can afford to work for “cash prizes?” And who implies that if you write for us, we will get your stuff posted somewhere else?
Usually, I spike the emails. Sometimes I reply, saying I cannot help people unless they pay.
Occasionally, I will help one.
Journalism is not alone in seeking unpaid help. Congress, for one, does it. So do judges, state governments and other people in positions to address the problem.
I have no problem with students who take the initiative to work for free when they can’t find a good paid journalism gig. In fact, I admire them. I wish poor students could work for free, too.
But journalism students do not go to college because they want a chance to work for nothing. Journalism schools should be training them to become very good at what they do and to negotiate for good paychecks. An unpaid internship might be a first step on that road, but I’d rather my students worked for the student press or their own sites, where they can have some pride of ownership, rather than someone who just wants to find free copy in the inbox.
Last year, we graduated students who walked into paid jobs and internships at websites, national magazines and metro dailies. That’s where the focus should be. If you want access to good students, show them the money.