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Slave-sourcing stopped

FREE labour is appealing to editors who face Men in Suits pressing for random budget cuts - but internships and so forth hardly count as "jobs", let alone professional journalism - as LFB will discuss at its April meeting. Josephine Baker reports an exchange that ended up making a difference...

PLUGS FOR a website that claims to advertise journalism jobs, entitled SourceThatJob, produced by Daryl Willcox Publishing, landed in my inbox. It advertised bona fide journalism jobs at first, but suddenly started advertising for "trainees", "interns" and various other unpaid journalism slaves. Call them what you will but don't call them jobs!

I wrote to Daryl Willcox publishing and received the following reply from an employee:

I understand your frustration at unpaid jobs being advertised alongside paid ones. There are however many young journalists who are willing to work for free to get a foot on the ladder and SourceThatJob tries to cater for them too. We do like to make the distinction between proper jobs with salaries and those that are looking for unpaid contributors as clear as possible so I have changed the title of the BusyGirlsGuide job to try and make this clearer to experienced journalists like yourself.

I replied:

You do not seem to understand that it is not a question of experienced versus inexperienced journalists. The definition of work is "being paid for what you do"; anything else is volunteering at best and slave labour at worst. No one can possibly call themselves a journalist, even a young journalist, if they are prepared to work for free.

The reply was another retort in the same vein. Imagine my astonishment when a few weeks later, I got the following message from Daryl Wilcox himself:

The email exchange between yourself and one of my colleagues about unpaid jobs advertised on SourceThatJob has come to my attention. Firstly, I would like to apologise for the way your comments were handled by one of my colleagues in particular. She clearly did not deal with your feedback in an appropriate way. I'm very sorry about that.

You made a very valid point about the potential for exploitation of unpaid workers in the media and the knock-on effect on qualified, professional people who end up losing out. For that reason I have decided to remove all unpaid positions from the www.sourcethatjob.com site and will not accept further unpaid posts in future.

Many thanks for the feedback you provided that prompted us to make this policy change on the site, albeit belatedly. And my apologies again for the poor way in which your initial comments were handled.

We all know there is crisis in journalism and everyone thinks that creative people are exploitable and expendable. This just goes to show that a protest of this kind can actually work!

Last modified: 3 Mar 2010 - © 2009 contributors
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