It would seem that The Guardian opened a very awkward can of worms yesterday when it published a story accusing student-run newspaper The Tab of not paying student writers, since the British media giant has decided not to divulge exactly how many unpaid interns are producing content for their site.

“Kevin Rawlinson, who wrote the piece, said that our model might amount to “exploitation” because we don’t pay our student reporters like professional freelancers,” writes Jack Rivlin, student reporter for The Tab.

“We had explained to him that we are one of many publishers who take both paid and unpaid contributions – meaning that we operate as both a powerful tech-driven platform, and a media company who hires the writers and reporters in our network who excel.

“Rawlinson printed that response, and admitted that The Tab is trialling a system of rewarding reporters who get more than 500 or 1000 shares over a month with prizes between £30 and £700, but clearly he didn’t find it satisfactory,” Rivlin adds.

The Tab started life as the official student news website for Cambridge University, but has since grown to a capital-backed international media platform with influence in both the UK and US, launching its own global website earlier this month.

“We have known for a long time that The Guardian publishes thousands of pieces by young people without paying them,” writes Rivlin, “and that it uses unpaid interns while criticising other businesses for doing the same.”

So after reading Rawlinson’s story, Rivlin and his team decided to email The Guardian’s press office to ask exactly how many unpaid interns the organisation employed this past year, as well as the number of unpaid student bloggers contributing to The Guardian Student‘s website.

Rivlin notes that a spokesman for The Guardian replied today confirming the company does in fact employ unpaid interns, but declined to reveal exactly how many.

Regarding the issue of student bloggers, this was the spokesman’s response: “Blogging Students is part of our established Guardian Students network with over 13,000 members. As active members of the community, students are invited to share their experiences through blogging.

“The guidelines about how to pitch work for Blogging Students outline that these blogs are not paid. Some of our best bloggers have been commissioned to write paid pieces.”

For a national news outlet that publishes stories discussing the issue of low-pay for millennials, and takes an explicit stance of disapproval towards unpaid internships, while at the same time upholding a vast network of unpaid student writers and thousands of hours of work experience labour, The Guardian’s unwarranted attack is a clear, outright case of the pot calling the kettle black.

“It was always precarious for a company that has just announced operating losses of £50m, and is having to lay off significant numbers of staff, to criticize a startup like The Tab, which is hiring dozens of young journalists, and giving opportunities, formal training, and a huge platform to thousands more. But few could have predicted how grossly hypocritical it would end up looking too,” Rivlin concludes.

Image via The Guardian.

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