Internships and DIVA magazine – the consequences.
Since my blog post on Internships, exploitation and social divisions, there’s been a huge number of developments, as anyone who follows me on twitter will know.
There’s been a series of blog posts about me and my issue with DIVA magazine - starting with this one at Harry’s Place. There have also been follow ups at this website. There is also a blog post here and now here at Intern Avenue. I must point out that I did not press anyone for these posts to be written or ask anyone to write about me.
After the MP for Harlow, Robert Halfon, saw the post at Harry’s Place, he contacted me asking if I wanted him to bring it up in Parliament: I agreed. While I was – and am – grateful that he’s representing me in this way, I am not myself a Conservative supporter (as has been implied by some people) and did not approach him to do this. Robert tabled EDM 2037 about my case, and yesterday, asked a question in the House of Commons related to this (about half way down the Hansard page). I’ve been accused of self-publicity around the DIVA issue, but I can reiterate that never once did I ask Robert to take this to Parliament (although I’m glad he has) nor have I asked for any blog posts to be written about me. I wrote my original blog post, which was intended to focus on the wider issue of unpaid internships, with my anecdote as an illustrative point, last Wednesday, and made an effort to spread it around twitter. After this, I didn’t ask for any more publicity until the next blog post about me – which I admit I tweeted about, but I don’t think this was unreasonable.
Yesterday, following Robert Halfon’s question about the case in the House of Commons, I received an email from the editor of DIVA, Jane Czyzselska. So as to respond fully to what she says, I reproduce the email below:
In reference to the uninformed comments you’ve made about me and DIVA
online and those raised in the House of Commons by your Conservative
party ally David Halfon, it’s a shame you haven’t considered it
necessary to verify or discuss the situation further with me directly.
DIVA is a small, independent magazine, run on a shoe-string budget and
with skeletal staff. We’re not being skinflints when we say we can’t
afford £100 for a month of travel expenses on this occasion. It’s the
truth. What we do offer to the many people who do work experience with
us is support and training and a vital chance to get their work
published either in print or online; something that has led to jobs
either within our company or on other publications and websites.
Those who complete work placements with us often report that DIVA
offers a meaningful and important opportunity. To quote your friend
Amy Nathan, “Internships at DIVA are a brilliant opportunity. After
only five days I feel that I have learned so much about writing, the
media and politics. Through research and writing articles I have
gained a far greater understanding of social and political issues. The
people who work at DIVA are not only lovely but interesting and
intelligent and an absolute pleasure to work for. I leave my
internship here a better person, and I would highly recommend that
anyone interested apply.”
Unlike many larger media corporations we have an excellent track
record in best practice, a clear policy and pastoral procedures that
adhere to the letter of the law – from our induction process at the
start of the placement right through to the training and guidance and
feedback process at the end.
We are deeply saddened that you have taken this unfortunate course of
action, attempting to defame and discredit DIVA in the process
without foundation. DIVA is a small enterprise, created by a small team
of committed queer women and men whose intentions are genuinely for
the good of the community.
I wish to take this point by point.
Firstly, there’s the reference to my “Conservative party ally David [sic] Halfon”. This may be strictly speaking true – he is on this issue my ally, and he is a Conservative MP, but the implication that I myself am a Conservative party member or supporter is baseless; as anyone who reads my blog or twitter would know, I am in fact a committed Labour party activist. Further more, I object to the insinuation that political parties are relevant in this discussion.
Secondly, there’s Ms. Czyzselska’s justification of being unable to offer travel expenses. This may be true: I have no reason to believe this a lie. However, she clearly misses one of the primary points in this case, and the reason I was so upset by it. It was not just that DIVA failed to offer travel expenses – I understand that not all companies can do this, although I firmly believe that internships where neither expenses nor a wage are paid are a bad thing – but that my offer of an internship was immediately withdrawn by DIVA magazine. The email rescinding my internship is reproduced below:
- I found the rejection on the basis of my age and lack of financial independence somewhat humilating, to be honest. The terms of the email seemed final; does Kim Watson think I should have pleaded for my internship back?
- I’d already spent about a month trying to sort out the issue with the travel expenses, and sending multiple emails in an attempt to get the editor to reply to me conclusively. I phoned up twice, also. Getting satisfactory responses was very difficult on the matter of travel expenses.
- Jane’s position was made very clear in the last email: I do not see why, if this was her position, she isn’t happy to have it known. I do not believe I have been “misrepresenting” DIVA.
- As I have stated, my original blog post was meant to be more focused on unpaid internships in general as an issue in society. I’ve made it clear that there are people in far worse positions than I am unable even to take up unpaid internships, expenses or no expenses. I’ve been criticised for becoming a “figurehead” for the intern situation as a white middle-class woman. It was never my intention to do this.
It’s possible I’ll be accused of self-publicity again for this blog post, but my intention is only to respond to criticisms and clear up some key points. My original blog post was not intended to spark off a storm of debate about me personally; it has been perceived as a whiny post by some critics, but this was never my intention. Nor was it my intention to damage DIVA; it’s still a magazine I intend to carry on buying as I enjoy it immensely. This will be my last blog-post on the subject, as I hope the matter will die down, and the debate focus on the wider problems of unpaid internships as an elitist way of entering into professions.
Finally, I include the email I have sent to Jane Czyzselska in response to yesterday’s email: