A friend told me a horror story last summer. Sulakshana was spending her summer break in London doing an unpaid editorial internship at Time Out, where she met another unpaid editorial intern who had been living in London for a while. Apparently, over a course of more than a year, her new "also unpaid intern" friend had done over ten unpaid internships at all major newspapers in the city including several at Guardian, The Times, Daily Mail (and even the bloody Economist). But none of them transpired into a "paid job".
And then, both of us sat at Russell Square gardens gloomily contemplating about our future. After all, a year later we were hoping to find paid jobs as journalists in London.
I told her that perhaps her new friend was stupid. If so many internships later, you still can't convince someone to pay you then perhaps it is time for some introspection.
That said, it is also true that all these newspapers did get free work out of her. Isn't it ironical that the same newspapers who scream blue murder at readers wanting content for free are happy enough to accept free services coming their way?
They say charity begins at home. Shouldn't paying for services received too?
Sulakshana cut her losses and ran away to Sierra Leone to work for a human rights organisation that would pay. While there, she got a very much paid job with the BBC World Trust. She writes a blog Notes from Freetown about life and times in Sierra Leone.
As for me, I am about to apply for my first free internship with a London newspaper. If that's the way the cookie crumbles....