Newsquest, the third largest regional and local newspaper publisher in the UK, has launched a collaboration scheme in which students are charged £120 to have content published online and to get a reference from the editor.
The “Young Reporter” scheme, first introduced via email to universities offering journalism courses, requires students to write an article per month over the span of eight months, after which they receive the letter of reference.
The scheme also includes a competition amongst the writers, the top three contenders of which become the face of the scheme the following year, featuring on all promotional material.
The £120 fee is comprised of a £100 cost to the university and a £20 registration fee.
Diana Jarvis, coordinator for the scheme, called it “an exciting and unique chance to experience working for a local paper”, adding that it “allows students to build up a portfolio of their published work.”
However, the program has come under heavy criticism in the media. Media organisations have called out Newsquest for lacking integrity and questioned its commitment to producing quality journalism over advancing monetary gains.
Michelle Stanistreet, general secretary for the National Union of Journalists (NUJ), had some strong words for the publisher.
She said in a statement: “The unpaid intern has become the scourge of the media profession – now Newsquest is asking for journalist students to actually pay for a by-line.
“The company’s cynicism beggars belief, and preys on young people desperate to get a break in a competitive industry.”
Dash Sekhar, Vice President Academic Affairs Edinburgh University Students Association (EUSA), also came out condemning the organisation:
“We are hugely disappointed that the news group Newsquest is using the competitive job market as an excuse to create a revenue stream from talented students, who may not be experienced enough to know they can turn elsewhere.”
Upon Newsquest’s plans going public, anger emerged within the student journalist community. Writers felt taken advantage of in what are already dire circumstances for graduates.
Speaking to The Student, Jasmine Andersson, editor-in-chief of Leeds University’s The Gryphon, drew attention to prevailing financial concerns for students wishing to enter the profession.
“It now costs £9,000 to study a Newspaper Journalism MA at City University, which is broaching on unaffordable for those who are from low-income backgrounds,” she told The Student.
She added: “To ask people for such a substantial amount of money takes advantage of the vulnerable, and corrupts any institution that wishes to call itself a credible publication.”
Jack May, editor-in-chief of The Cambridge Student, told The Student: “It’s disgusting, and I hope all student journalists will boycott the scheme in the hope that it fails.”
He stated his belief that with a meaningful student journalism experience, young writers can take on the work force without having to resort to such measures.
“At The Cambridge Student, we give writers and editors experience producing top-quality student journalism that stands them in great stead for going out to the wider world.”