In a bid to encourage a more diverse range of people to enter the journalism industry, new initiative PressPad will match aspiring journalists to a mentor in the business who will provide them with rent-free accommodation for the duration of their internship.

The project, founded by BBC journalist Olivia Crellin, was only set up a month ago, but has already received over 50 offers of rooms from hosts, and a flood of applications from graduates.

"We want to reduce that financial barrier – you could have a million mentors in the world, but if you can't afford to show up to work, you don't have much of a chance," she said.

"Diversity is an issue on a lot of people's minds – people are realising that if they want to keep appealing to audiences, keep competitive and stay relevant, they need to be writing about things that affect everybody. And if you don't have a newsroom that reflects everybody, then you're not going to be able to do that.

"We are hoping that as the process goes on, the initiative will encourage more people to consider journalism as a career option because they will be looking at internships as a possible way into the industry."

To qualify as a host, reporters must have a spare room available for up to four weeks, covering the length of an intern's placement. Interns must be a recent graduate in the UK whose primary residence is outside of London, with a placement already secured.

"A lot of people have commented that we might be enabling the system of unpaid internships, but this is not a scheme to encourage that, but a stop-gap until the campaigns to end unpaid internships are successful," she said.

"It's all very well and good saying unpaid internships are wrong, but what happens to those people who don't have the option to enter a career because of that?"

The scheme, which has now closed its first round of applications, will be in a pilot phase over the next year, and will scale up if there is demand, getting feedback from those involved along the way.

"Mentors can be as involved as they want to," said Crellin, explaining that PressPad has a policy not to match interns with journalists from the same organisation as their placement, as to not let reporters feel like they are bringing their work home with them, and so interns are free to ask questions to professionals outside of their placement.

Those professional reporters that want to get involved but can't offer a room will soon be able to donate towards the running of PressPad on its social media pages and website.

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