The UK’s third largest regional newspaper publisher is charging students £120 for the chance to have their work published in one of its titles.

The Young Reporter scheme has contacted colleges and universities that run journalism courses, offering students the opportunity to build a portfolio before they graduate.

The university or college is expected to pay £100 and the student a £20 registration fee to take part.

Diana Jarvis, who coordinates the group’s scheme for Newsquest South London, said: “This opportunity is an exciting and unique chance to experience working for a local paper and allows students to build up a portfolio of their published work over the eight months.

“Unlike school students, the university students are studying the subject so will have an advantage of possibly getting their articles published in our actual newspapers around London.”

Students who pay to take part write one article a month for an online newspaper covering the Greater London area.

At the end of the scheme students who complete all eight articles, receive a letter of recognition from the editor, which they can use as a reference.

The students go on to compete against each other to win prizes and attend an award ceremony. The top three then become the faces of the following year’s scheme, appearing on all marketing material.

Michelle Stanistreet, the National Union of Journalists general secretary, said: “While Newsquest is sacking professional staff on its titles, it is charging journalist students for writing articles for them.

“The unpaid intern has become the scourge of the media profession – now Newsquest is asking for journalist students to actually pay for a by-line. The company’s cynicism beggars belief, and preys on young people desperate to get a break in a competitive industry.

“College lecturers tell me they are outraged and they are quite right to be. We also know that Newsquest is using students to do shifts at its subbing hub in Newport, after sacking sub-editors on its newspapers across the land.

“Newsquest and other newspaper groups have been upfront about saying they intend to increase the amount of free copy and photographs they use supplied by readers – clearly part of their strategy in delivering this is to expect aspiring journalists to pay for the privilege.

Where is the integrity in this? Where is the commitment to quality journalism? They should be providing journalist students with a meaningful work experience and if their articles are good enough to be published, they are good enough to be paid for.”

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