Alex Milne a freelance sports journalist with bylines for the Mirror, Sky Sports News and Yahoo Sport amongst others. He also regularly appears on Love Sport Radio.
It is a sight all too common in newsrooms across the country. A nervous but excited-looking youngster, dressed up in an ill-fitting suit, approaches the editor to introduce himself.
He probably envisages being given a warm welcome, made to feel part of the team, and that he will leave at the end of his week raring to go and take on the world of journalism.
Instead, the editor looks at him blankly for a second before ushering him to a nearby vacated desk with no one else in close proximity. He turns to his colleagues, bemused, and says in a far from inaudible voice: "What the f*** am I supposed to do with him?"
As a recent NCTJ graduate, I can sadly confirm that this incident, which I witnessed with my own eyes, is not an isolated one.
This is not good enough. The promise of a 'busy newsroom atmosphere' should not mean 'We’re so very busy that we cannot find any time whatsoever to find something for you to do.' This youngster may have spent a fortune on transport to take the opportunity and far too often big companies assume having a week 'working' there on your CV is a good enough incentive.
In a newsroom with dozens or hundreds of people, surely someone could take the time out of their day to offer some advice, pass down their wisdom or provide a productive task (and no that does not mean going out to Costa for four lattes) rather than cracking in-jokes with their colleagues.
Often even when the trainee asks for something to do, they are met with a ‘Just give me 10 minutes.' Those 10 minutes become 20, then an hour, and before they know it they are back at the bottom of the priority list yet again.
And if companies really do not have the resources to offer a decent work experience, the solution is quite simple - do not. It is not doing anyone any favours, it is not doing the trainee any favours, and it is just a total waste of everybody’s time.
In an age where the journalism industry is increasingly in danger, we need to support talented would-be reporters and not put them off the career because of a bad experience. There is nothing more demoralising than feeling you are invisible in a bustling hub of activity.
So, next time you offer work experience, have a think beforehand. What can we offer? What can we teach? What can a student do for us? No one should leave a placement feeling the overwhelming emotion of ‘that was a complete waste of time.’ However, it is all too often the case.
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