Within hours of being published, The Guardian’s dig at The Tab unravelled
This morning the Media Guardian published a story about The Tab, which described our growth from student news site to international platform for young writers. Amid typos and two mis-spelled names, the piece noted how our model allows us to support writers – legally and editorially – in the face of universities that often seek to censor and bully them. And it mentioned our recent move into non-student media with our new site for readers in their twenties, thetab.com.
But the article also criticised us for not paying most of our student writers – and that criticism has unravelled quite spectacularly today.
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 (Rawlinson is himself a freelancer). 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 which 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 didn’t find it satisfactory.
We have known for a long time that the Guardian publishes thousands of pieces by young people without paying them, and that it uses unpaid interns while criticising other businesses for doing the same. So last night, when Rawlinson’s story appeared online, we emailed the Guardian’s press office to ask how many unpaid interns they have used in the past year, and how many unpaid students have blogged for their Guardian Students site? A spokesman replied today confirming that the newspaper has unpaid interns, but declining to say how many. On the issue of unpaid student bloggers, the spokesman’s answer was pretty astonishing:
“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.”
Media Guido reported that figure earlier today, noting the hypocrisy of accusing The Tab of exploitation while maintaining a huge network of unpaid bloggers, and using thousands of hours of work experience labour.
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.
Young writers are the best people to judge whether contributing to The Tab is worth it for them – there are dozens of other sites, apps and platforms they can write for. And in the past eight weeks, almost 5,000 students have signed up to join our ranks.