Prentice in Praise of Media Internships

The Westminster Government might be calling for sweeping changes to the way unpaid internships are handed out – especially to the children of well-connected middle-class parents – but Scotland on Sunday journalist, Claire Prentice, is clearly of the view that internships, per se, are a good thing.

Declares Claire, in the ‘Real Lives’ slot in Sunday's issue of the Edinburgh-based broadsheet: “…the government's policy is based on a misconception. They see internships as a barrier to social mobility because only the children of the wealthy can afford to work without financial reward while they wait around for someone to offer them a job.

“Not in my experience. I grew up with no private income and no family connections in the media, and owe my career to unpaid work experience. I did masses of unpaid work – much of it with Scotland on Sunday's sister paper, The Scotsman – to get my start in journalism.

“And I loved every minute of it. I did anything I was asked, and begged to do more. A motherly journalist took me aside and warned me I was being exploited.

“I didn't care. I was interviewing Chrissie Hynde and, getting into the office before 7am to call up people on the beach in Australia. I was earning bylines and I was having a blast. While I worked unpaid at my career, I lived off my savings from a part-time job in Burger King.

“Some friends thought I was a mug. A school pal of mine turned down an unpaid placement at an architects' practice to take a paid summer job in a supermarket. He flashed his cash around and sneered that I was a fool. Today he's still waiting for his big break.

“Yes, some young people are exploited but a bit of exploitation never did anyone with talent and get-up-and-go any harm.”