Monday, 2 February 2009


Work experience is a subject which has interested me for some time, as I've had so many great opportunities to get behind the scenes at a variety of media companies. But it's not that easy to get in, especially in journalism - and I was pleased to see this highlighted last month by Johann Hari, who said:

"When you get to work today, will your coffee be fetched by an unpaid intern? Have you wrangled a work experience placement for your own child? Does your business rest on this bottom-layer of the unpaid and unmerited? Then you are part of a scam – one that disfigures and damages Britain." (Johann Hari, The Independent, 13/1/2009)

Strong words from a journalist, but he's right - it is a scam. I've lived in Sheffield for enough time to know that not everyone lives close to London and has parents who can fund travel expenses for a placement. I've heard reports of students spending £300 on accommodation for 1 week at the BBC, and even sleeping under the desks of a European wires office to avoid spending anything on a hotel (right)! Whilst I've worked at Sky News, BBC Sport, The People, LBC, Heart 106.2, Southend Echo, BBC News, The Week, Premier Christian Radio and BBC Essex (with placements coming up at Classic FM, Daily Mail and The Sunday Times), I know that others are at a disadvantage when it comes to getting a job because they simply haven't made the contacts, and so I'm very grateful for the opportunities I've already had, and long may they continue!

But what does this say for the poor black child on the East End estate? There's every chance he could write better journalism than me, as it's a skill you can learn and develop - which is why I'm studying for a degree in the subject! If only there was a more level playing field and placements were more clearly advertised. Alan Milburn is certainly working on the former, to try and give those from disadvantage backgrounds a good chance, and The Guardian offers bursaries and placements to try and combat the problem. But work experience is here to stay, and it will always be about who you know. Only since last Easter have I applied for placements directly - the rest before then were all through backdoor contacts. It is unfair, but are those who get the placements not representative of those who end up working there? Rarely have I worked for a media company that wasn't full of middle-class white people, and so it will probably continue.


Whenever it snows in this country, everything seems to shut down - trains, schools and roads - but surely we should be better prepared? Russians get these conditions in Moscow on a daily basis but it doesn't seem to upset their transport infrastructure. But it's been panic stations today around the country. At least I wasn't positioned on an M4 bridge like one unlucky journalist this morning doing a travel update - although I bet the reporter positioned inside the warm Highways Agency offices in Birmingham was the envy of every roving hack at Sky News today!


Absolute Radio has nosedived in the Rajar figures this week, losing around 20% of its audience. On the converse, Classic FM added over 150,000 new listeners, so it's not all bad news in the radio industry. Surely with more people out of a job at the moment, there'll be more people twiddling their thumbs - so why not twiddle your thumbs to Mozart?! Many of my friends are embarrassed to admit they listen to this station while they work, which shows it still struggles with brand strength in a young market, although at least they didn't scrap a hugely well-known name like Virgin and give journalists a great way to describe the latest viewing figures - Absolute Rubbish. Ah well, at least the programme controllers are trying to sound more down with the kids...