Write for Free? Write for Metro
Newspapers far and wide are laying people off, so releasing six newspaper staff normally wouldn't turn heads. But since Metro only had six paid writers to start with, and they ditched them all ("hiring" unpaid interns as replacements), well, that's worth noting.
On one hand it's just another sign of the times. It's not just newspapers laying people off, but the newspaper industry itself is going through growing pains - ok, excruciating adapt-to-the-times pains - and it's unreasonable to think Metro would be unaffected.
But putting the paper to bed with unpaid interns who have been on the job for three whole days? I mean, can you even call people working for free with no mentors interns? Shouldn't they be called, I don't know, volunteers or something?
Behind the small commuter rag is the behemoth Torstar, so there should've been some money on hand to keep at least one paid writer around. If Metro can survive this hook-up to life support, Torstar may even look at hiring paid writers again. But probably not before it figures out how to keep The Star viable (suggestion: learn what Web 2.0 is and how to participate in that community).
Not surprisingly, the union representing the affected workers has five grievances filed, arguing that you can't really replace established employees with unpaid interns who are still trying to remember how to get to the bathrooms.
Of course, more than any staff changes, perhaps Torstar and Metro should look at how to make the paper more desirable to read. That might help.
UPDATE 11 February: According to Metro, as well as the Globe and Mail (my original source), "Metro newspaper in Toronto is not replacing laid-off writers with interns. The newspaper's internship program was not altered as a result of recent layoffs in the editorial department." Metro's editor-in-chief, Dianne Rinehart, says that mentoring was and is the foundation of the internship program; the effect, if any, of writer layoffs on this program is not clear to me. A call placed to Metro's publisher has not yet been returned.
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