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A career in journalism?

Strickland Foundation CEO Victor Aquilina at the launch of the internship scheme. Photo: Jason Borg

Strickland Foundation CEO Victor Aquilina at the launch of the internship scheme. Photo: Jason Borg

Mabel Strickland used to say it takes seven years to make a journalist.

The newspapers were the things Mabel Strickland treasured most

I have no idea where she got this from, but she is probably right. Miss Strickland knew a thing or two about journalism, having worked closely with her father in the running of his newspapers in the early phases of development of his printing works, and, later, in editing The Times of Malta and The Sunday Times of Malta for quite a time. In my view, her greatest contribution was as editor of the newspapers during the war.

The newspapers were the things she treasured most. Her father, Lord Strickland, was quite aware of this from the start, which is why he had passed them on to her. She liked politics, but journalism was in her blood, and ahead of her retirement, she sought to keep her family’s legacy alive when in 1979 she placed the majority shareholding interest in Allied Newspapers Limited in trust under the Strickland Foundation.

She backed her lifelong belief in journalism as a bulwark of democratic values when she made it a point to make the advancement of journalism in Malta one of the main aims of the foundation.

Over the years, since it has been set up, the foundation has mainly helped to contribute towards this aim through the sponsoring of scholarships, both in Malta and abroad, and, also, through the organisation of seminars and talks on specific journalistic subjects.

The foundation is now going a step further by launching a scheme meant to help young people interested in following up a career in journalism take their first step. Journalists and politicians are not exactly the darlings of the people these days. A number of them have at times brought their work in disrepute, but one can hardly imagine what life would be like without their services.

Whatever happens to the newspaper industry in the wake of the new social media revolution, in the opinion of many experts in the field, there would still be need for journalists as newspapers gradually change in character from vehicles of news to ones meant to give greater expert analysis of events.

The problem for those wanting to break into journalism is finding outlets in the ever-competitive industry, particularly now when newspapers are shrinking, not expanding. The internship scheme just launched by The Strickland Foundation is aimed precisely at helping those interested in being trained as journalists take the first step.

It is, by all accounts, the foundation’s biggest project so far. The foundation will work in partnership with the media companies as it is the newspapers, radio and television stations and other media organisations that have to accept interns and train them at the place of work.

On its part, the foundation is prepared to finance internships for a year, thus opening the way for those wanting to become journalists to see if they can make it. The scheme is spread over three years and the foundation is prepared to sponsor six interns every year. It is committed to spend €300,000 over the three years.

How will it work? Those who are interested may apply to the foundation, specifying the media company of their choice. For instance, if, from the total, there are six applications from candidates wishing to join PBS, the internship in this particular case will be awarded to the candidate who, in the opinion of the broadcasting station and the foundation, merits the post on the basis of qualifications and aptitude for the work.

Of course, the media companies for which the applicants apply would have to accept to take on the intern selected, but the initial media response to the scheme has been positive. There are certain obligations that have to be met by the interns and the media companies.

In the case of the interns, these have to focus in their work (not exclusively) on two subjects chosen by the foundation for the first phase of the scheme, the promotion of voluntary organisations and human rights. The media companies have to see that the interns are provided with appropriate support, mentoring and training in developing their journalistic skills.

It should be an exciting scheme, but success depends on whether there will be enough interest from qualified candidates to take up the offer, and willingness on the part of the media companies to take on the interns selected.

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