Grimm Fairy Tales for Journalism Students

By Mick Gregory

I am fascinated by the deluded, foggy, liberal idealists who wasted their parents’ hard earned savings on “J-school” degrees. Here is another reporter/journalist candidate who wrote in to “Brother (Joe) Grimm” (His real name) at the Poynter Institute.

I don’t have to comment on this entry. Read for yourself what this sad young bastard is doing. Working for free at such low level papers as a 9,000 weekly; a fry cook at IHOP has more prestige and a lot better pay.

How Can Internship No. 4 Help Me?
I know that everybody does it, but I can’t resist thanking you for running your column.

I’m a rising senior in political science doing my third internship, and the odds look good for a fourth one in the fall. Three or four internships sound good, but I have doubts about how editors will feel about these internships when it comes time to apply for a job.

Internship number one was at a 9,000-circulation daily in Pennsylvania, 40 hours per week, unpaid. I wrote an average of three or four stories a week, and did grunt-work otherwise. It was a great introduction to professional journalism, and I got a top-notch evaluation.

Number two was at a 27,000 or so circulation daily in Massachusetts, 10 hours per week (during a school semester), unpaid. I wrote one or two stories a week, and once again, great evaluation.

Number three is at a daily of about 18,000 circulation in New York, 18 hours per week, unpaid. I’m writing about four or five stories each week, and I feel like I’m really being challenged and being kept busy. I feel like the editors like my work and that I’ll get a good evaluation.

And if number four happens, it’ll be at a 100,000 circulation daily in New York, 8 hours a week, unpaid.

I also recently founded, and am the editor-in-chief of, my college’s online-only newspaper.

So, my fear is that these newspapers are too small for an editor to appreciate. I certainly appreciate them, and in fact, I feel like I had a lot more hands-on experience at them than I would have had at much larger newspapers. But I’m not the one whose opinion ultimately matters on that.

Is my fear well-grounded? And, if so, how can I increase my chances of getting a good job?



The number of internships is fine, as they are all coming before you graduate. Three or four post-grad internships — now that could be a problem.

The pattern you have raises three issues, but all can be cured if your next internship is a good one. The first issue is that most of your internships have been for fewer than 20 hours a week, and the trend has been toward shorter and shorter ones.

Joe Grimm
The next problem is related: The size of the companies you work for goes up and down.

And the third problem is that no one has paid you yet. Certainly, you feel that pain. And it is a testament to your tenacity that you work for free. But we need to get someone at a solid daily — it need not be huge — to hire you for a full-time, paid internship. Ten hours a week just isn’t nearly as intense or impressive as full-time.

And while you have worked hard at your internships, the idea that interns at large newspapers are somehow sitting around waiting to deliver coffee and sandwiches — or merely observing — is pretty much urban folklore. They’re working, and their clips prove it.

Take the initiative you have shown in founding an online publication, and use those qualities to try to get a good internship where your online awareness could benefit the newspaper. It might ensure that your fourth internship is the launching pad you need. — Mr. Grimm.

How about internship No. 5 or 6?

Isn’t it a lie to call unpaid “gofor” positions interns? What kind of corporate shill are you?
Mr. Grimm, have you no shame?

4 thoughts on “Grimm Fairy Tales for Journalism Students

  1. I agree for once (or twice), being a young, deluded, foggy, idealist (who payed for my own highly respected degree).

    That’s a scam! You either work for money or for yourself, definitely not for free! They are exploited, especially if they’re writing published stories for the newspaper and receiving no money – that’s slavery! Boooo! I bet the internships are competitive as well to keep the stream of free labour pouring in.

    Glad to see you are sticking up for the rights of others. Well done – that’s the path to social responsibility.

    Thank you Terry. We agree quite often. Next, see the movie “Layer Cake.” It’s another favorite of mine.

  2. Joe Grimm has no shame. He gave the same type of advice to someone recently. The “tip” was for the person to stay in school for an extra year — just to have an internship. Unbelievable.

    Sadly, the industry gives Grimm cred for some reason. Most of the time, his advice is sad and hypocritical. Coincidentally, his time as a “recruiter” overlaps with the strike at the Free Press; you make your own assumptions about how much he cares for the workers.

  3. Thanks Wenalway. You must be in the media or once was. I think your are right on about his “recruiter” timing. He was brought in to find journalist scabs from low-level positions all over the country to make it to the “Big Leagues,” such as the Detroit Free Press.

    And the Poynter Institute prints his propaganda. In fact, Grimm is on two payrolls, Gannett’s and Poynter’s. You have to hand it to him.

  4. Yeah, he sort of reminds me of Ernie McCracken from “Kingpin.”

    What’s really sad: He has people who enable him by seeking his “advice.” I’d love to believe he simply concocts the questions, but there are many fools out there who think he knows his stuff.

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