Australian Intern’s ‘Notes From a Tabloid Newsroom’ in Student Magazine Causes Stir

The Australian journalism community is agog and aghast at a recent student intern’s description of her brief time in the newsroom at Melbourne’s Herald Sun.

In an anonymous piece featured in the latest issue of Farrago, a University of Melbourne campus magazine, the student characterized various Herald Sun staffers as sexist, homophobic, transphobic, perverted, ageist, sizeist, and generally mean-spirited.

For example, as she recalled an editor asking at one point about a related story: “’Why are they [the gay community] making such a fuss? It’s been this way for millennia, why change now?’  Although he had a right to state an opinion, the blatant sense of entitlement and privilege in the room was palpable.  A few minutes later, he joked to the chief-of-staff about a recent article on Catholic priests opposed to gay marriage: ‘It’s good to have the Catholics in the news with no pedophilia; although I guess there’s still sex and gays.’”

Overall, in the words of the ex-intern, who has now been identified in the Aussie press as Sasha Burden: “My internship doesn’t leave me wanting to be a journalist. At the end of every day I left The Hun’s immense grey building feeling as if all the life, love and passion in me had been sucked out, and replaced with mud. . . . If Australia’s big mastheads all function like this then I say bring on their decline.  Rip down the banners that have led to media exclusivity and elitism. Huzzah to the future of online, diverse reporting.”

According to The Age in Melbourne, “The article, published two weeks ago in print and online, has since circulated widely on Twitter, sparking a war of words between people in the industry.”  It even prompted the Herald Sun editor-in-chief to write a public letter of complaint to the university because no staffers had a chance to respond to the student’s claims in the article.

The debate seems to center on whether the intern’s observations spotlight particular ugliness in a single newsroom or if she simply witnessed the type of gallows humor and venting valued by journos everywhere who are faced with covering some of the world’s nastier bits every day, on deadline.

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