Newsquest are charging students £120 for a byline. The NUJ is appalled. Universities are angry. Journalists are outraged.
And no one is surprised.
What is perhaps most telling about the move is what it says about Newsquest’s commercial nous.
What are they selling here? Newsquest’s Diana Jarvis told the Huffington Post that the fee was “an administration cost”
“We have students from 10 to 13 years of age writing on this programme and they have no journalism experience, as such. We have to do a lot of work to enable their stuff to go up [on the site] without any libel risks. It is not a money-making exercise.”
But the email sent to colleges stated students would:
“Work as journalists for an online newspaper, writing one article per month for a period of eight months. All articles written are uploaded onto our local online paper, which covers the whole of Greater London. At the end of the scheme all students who complete all eight articles, receive a letter of recognition from the editor, which they can use as a reference with their cvs and their names go into our Award Ceremony brochure, which is distributed around London”
Either way, it’s a poor sale.
Newsquest could have sold training – an area that The Guardian, Good Housekeeping and Conde Nast among others have explored – but instead they tried to sell space.
They could have sold editorial guidance – instead they are selling libel-proofing.
They should know their market: if there’s any problem with student journalists it’s that they’re too afraid to publish bad news. And no lawyer would sue a student who has no money to pay any damages.
It’s also a very competitive market: university tutors receive approaches every week from websites looking for students to write free content for them. Building a cuttings file is not hard. It’s building a cuttings file of good work that’s the challenge.
News organisations long ago outsourced their training to universities. If they want to reverse roles, they’ll need to come up with a better offer.
UPDATE : Newsquest later issued a statement reiterating that £120 fees were for administrative costs and saying that it was “community-focused project that offers young people who might wish to enter the media an opportunity to get a taste of journalism and experience involvement with a real newsroom.”
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