Enjoying free labour or helping students?

Entering the media industry is a challenge. The lucky ones are those who are at the right place at the right time while others need a godfather in the industry or pursue an (unpaid) internship.

Journalism has not only been a passion but a way of life for me. As a child, I was curious to find out about things happening around me and developed a nose for news.

I decided to pursue a career in journalism at the age of 12. Therefore, during my early teenage years, I began writing for my school and parish magazine and then went on to become a part of the editorial team.

My interest in the area drove me to pursue a bachelor’s degree in mass media with journalism as a specialisation.

Securing an internship

During the course of my bachelor’s degree, I decided to pursue an internship to enter the industry, gain experience and to create a network of contacts. The education system in India focusses more on marks than on gaining practical exposure. Pursuing an internship was out of choice not out of academic compusion.

I ran from pillar to post knocking on the doors of media companies in search of an internship. I finally got a one-month unpaid internship at a national English daily newspaper in Mumbai.

The lessons

I gained practical knowledge in the mainstream Indian print media as a reporter on the field as well as an editor and page designer on the desk.

I learnt a lot through hands-on experience and in terms of knowledge through co-ordination, co-operation and team work. I learnt that the glamour that is associated with such a job profile is quite an illusion.

Working with people with different attitudes, outlooks and approaches is a complete learning experience in itself. My work experience while reporting on various beats taught me the nuances and realities of a scribe’s life.

The internship was a great way to gain experience, confidence and knowledge about the world of work. In an increasing competitive job market, employers expect prospective employees to have some amount of work experience.

Why is it unpaid?

Interning for a company is totally different from volunteering with a charity. For me the internship was more about the work experience and not about the money. This is not the case for all interns. Many interns cannot afford to work for a month without pay. Coming from a well-to-do family in Mumbai, I was able to afford the unpaid internship along with all the other ancillary expenses that come along with it. It was surely hard on the pocket but I could do it with family support.

While reporting on the field, news progresses very fast. Unless the intern has their own transport which is highly unlikely, they have to rely on public transport. I did not have time to wait for the bus or the train. I had to take a taxi to reach my destination on time and gather news. Taxi fare and conveyance was the major  expense as I did not get a reimbursement. The reason cited by my editor was – “You have come here to learn which you are getting free. Why do you want to get paid for learning?”

Internships provide employers with cheap or free labour. Remunerating interns for their work is the company’s way of appreciating their work however menial it can be.

Intern Aware

Intern Aware is an organisation in the UK that campaigns for paid labour. The organisation strives for the payment of the national minimum wage for interns.

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