First of all, let me say hi, it’s been a while. I’ve been madly busy, and I plan to write about that, but, today, I’ve got something to say, by way of a snark, and I plan to say it while I’m feeling exercised about it.
I’m going to pretend it’s Monday, mostly because I usually reserve Monday’s blog slot for remarks about something I’ve found in the Sunday papers. Today I want to talk about something I’ve found out about the Sunday papers, or, in this particular instance The Observer, although I’m sure the same holds true for most, if not all, of the Sundays and for many other papers, magazines, journals, and all kinds of sites that take written material, articles and reviews.
The husband and I were sitting having a curry in Oxford last night with several graduate students, fine, talented, upstanding men, all, although I wonder if it isn’t a little odd that there wasn’t a single woman among them, but I digress... upstanding men, all, and we were discussing the fact that one of them has recently been asked to contribute occasional reviews to The Observer. He considers this to be a feather in his cap, and a foot in the door, a step on the path to becoming that which he’d like to be. That’s all good, and I was happy for him, until he said, and I quote, “Of course, I’m not getting paid for it.”
It was a casual, almost throwaway comment, and he saw no injustice in it. He said it with a shrug. It was only to be expected.
I wanted to scream at him, and I very nearly did. I asked him whether he’d been in The Observer’s offices, which he has, and yes they are swanky, and the chairs in reception probably did cost a grand each. I asked him if he knew that the celebrity columnists were paid in the region of four figures for their weekly columns. I asked him whether he thought the staffer who subbed his reviews might expect to be paid, or the ad sales team. He pointed out that the other occasional, freelance reviewers weren’t paid. I asked him why they didn’t unionise.
Then I wondered which century we were living in for crying out loud.
He pointed out that if he didn’t do the job someone else would. I pointed out that it wasn’t a job since HE WASN’T GETTING PAID!
You see, I got shouty.
Then the bloke next to him talked about his internship on a radio show, and he named the left wing comedian who headed up the show.
Wait a minute, The Observer is reputed to be a left wing paper and this comedian is known for his left wing politics, and yet they are both exploiting kids for free labour. How does anybody sleep at night?
I very nearly called this blog “Elitism and Internships”.
There is a reason why this American model is bad for us, and it’s the same reason why it’s bad for the Americans. It’s because the best people for the job, don’t get the job... not the internship, and not the entry level job once the internship is completed.
The kids that apply for internships are the kids who can afford to work for nothing, which usually means their parents are picking up the tabs for their living expenses. The brightest and best are not necessarily applying for internships so there is a huge pool of untapped talent.
Many entry level jobs are being won by people who have internships on their cvs, because they are thought to be more experienced and more willing to work, after all, they were prepared to take an internship and work for nothing. The fact that they probably worked for nothing while suffering no hardship for their choices counts for nothing and is not even recognised, so that huge pool of untapped talent, the brightest and best that couldn’t afford to apply for an internship, is excluded from entry level jobs, and employees continue to miss out.
This system denies kids the opportunity to prove themselves and denies employers the best chance to employ the best candidates... And WORKERS DON’T GET PAID !
There used to be laws against workers not getting paid. People fought for them... centuries ago!
I don’t know if those two young men will rally. I wish they felt more militant about it. I certainly feel militant on their behalf.
When I told them I was writing this blog, their first reaction was to beg me not to use their names. All I could do was ask them what the hell they were afraid of. They are young men who ought not to be afraid of anything. How have we wrung the spirit out of our most promising, most articulate kids almost before they’ve begun? Why aren’t they politicised? Why won’t they stand up for themselves? What have we done to them?
I’ll tell you what we’ve done... We’ve lowered their expectations so far that they fail to see their own value. We do them a disservice.
I hope one day they’ll see that, and, when they do, I hope they will fight back, and I hope they win that fight, because it’s about time something changed.