Metro expects journalists to work for free

In case you needed more evidence that news organizations are taking advantage of the naiveté of young journalism students to reduce their payroll costs, the Metro newspaper in Toronto has fired its paid staff and replaced them with but are keeping their unpaid interns.

One of these days, newspapers (especially crappy ones like Metro) will lose that prestige that allows them to abuse students who are so desperate to get into their dream career they’ll work for free.

UPDATE (Feb. 11): One of those laid-off journalists writes about his bosses escorting him from the building on his personal blog.

9 thoughts on “Metro expects journalists to work for free

  1. JF

    Yeah, well… 2-3 years ago I applied for an internship at Metro Montreal. Basically, the job was writing headers and doing some page layouts… I got there, met them and oh, surprise, it was a month long internship, 40hrs a week, totally unpaid. (something about a leave some permanent employee had to take I guess)

    Great. So another student from my journalism classes got it, one who was in exchange from France or Belgium and didn’t have the right to work for money here.

    Anyway, I just find it sad that it’s so hard to find anything related to journalism and still being able to live (pay the rent, the groceries, some activities, etc), than when you get a call from somewhere, they expect you to work for them for free until they can get rid of you…

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  2. Anonymous

    why can’t metro just pay a dozen bloggers 50 bucks each per day…

    cost of making metro – 1000 bucks for the whole thing

    metro takes in ads

    people get lots of good content.

    metro makes money.

    everybody happy

    metro is down to 15 pages … but during the holidays they doubled that

    anybody ask what the advertisers think of all this ?

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  3. Raphaëlle Derome

    If any journalism student is reading this, please don’t apply to unpaid internship programs. You will gain much better hands-on experience getting involved at your student paper, doing ACTUAL REPORTING. Some of them pay (a few years ago Quartier Libre at UdeM paid you a small fee starting from the fourth piece you wrote, and these pieces are recognized by Copibec for the lump-sum payment they do every two years).

    Or, apply to AJIQ’s PAID INTERNSHIP at Le Devoir, a program we have each year, at a much more prestigious newspaper than Metro! Candidates can apply through February 27th. Details here: http://www.ajiq.qc.ca/communiques/bourse-ajiqle-devoir-2009.php

    Disclaimer: I am on the board of AJIQ.

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  4. André Dumont

    There are tons of regional weeklies with huge turnover, so if your goal is to get into journalism for real, buy a used car and get a real job, doing real journalism. You may earn only 500 $ a week, but at least you are paid to learn. If you are good, you’ll find another job quickly.
    (I am also a board member of l’AJIQ)

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  5. Metro Canada

    On Feb. 10th, an article by Patricia Best in the Globe and Mail’s Report on Business incorrectly reported that Metro “will be using non-paid interns” to replace former Metro writers who lost their jobs in layoffs last week. This isn’t true, and the Globe printed a correction on Feb. 11th. The correction read: “Metro newspaper in Toronto is not replacing laid-off writers with interns. The newspaper’s internship program was not altered as a result of recent layoffs in the editorial department. A column published yesterday may have suggested otherwise.” Metro’s ongoing internship program is – and has always been – designed to mentor students and help them gain newsroom experience to graduate from journalism schools across the country.

    Dianne Rinehart, editor-in-chief, Metro English Canada

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  6. JF

    Iused to write for QL, but when university was over, I wasn’t able to write with them again.

    As for 500$/weekly newspapers, I tried too, but I’d gladly take the opportunity if it was available in a region I know (and not too far from Montreal…

    …I was once offered a 3-week replacement journalist position at Transcontinental, but my biggest error was to refuse it because I just got accepted for a full-time/permanent job in a retail store…

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  7. RG

    Oh yeah, give the interns a chance to gain experience?!?! That’s great, except that there are no permanent positions available for them when they enter the workforce! I guess the motto is: Work like a slave as an intern at Metro but don’t expect us to give you a full-time position!

    I will not be picking up the Metro paper anymore. I had better expectations from them!

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  8. Working Journalist

    I sympathize, having worked in journalism for over ten years. I worked for free a lot, like when I started out as a fifteen year old at my local paper to when I interned at CTV in Vancouver. Thing is, it’s a dues paying industry. Sometimes you have to suck it up and work your butt off, for little or no pay. Other industries, like the culinary world, are like this too. You earn respect by pushing yourself.

    As much as interns deserve to be paid for the work they do, the idea that you’re automatically entitled is something brought about by the unions in the industry. You’ll find that because of the unions it’s really hard to get an actual job and you’ll pretty much be freelancing forever. I’ve now been working in radio for almost two years and I’ve been on contract the whole time because of the unions.

    Don’t automatically rule out NOT doing unpaid internships. I understand if you have bills to pay, but if you can spare a few days a week the experience can be invaluable. Take each internship with a grain of salt but always look at what YOU can gain from it, even if what you get isn’t money.

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