Last week the SoE reported how PressPad has launched a fundraiser to continue its online support programme aimed at reducing industry access barriers for aspiring journalists during the Covid-19 crisis. Today we hear from Lydia Wilkins, a freelance journalist, blogger and newsletter writer as well as an intern for PressPad. She writes here of how the organisation has helped her get a foot in the door of journalism and how those in the industry can support PressPad’s latest drive.
Like a lot of Autistic people, I have what is called a ‘spiky profile’ – meaning that I am only really good at one particular thing – and that my skill set is not really spread consistently across a range that a lot of people have. That happened to – hopefully! – be writing. Fiction is not ‘my thing’ – and I eventually made the switch to journalism, studying for my NCTJ qualification with the help of the Journalism Diversity Fund.
After graduating, I was at a loss; nineteen years old, Autistic, and the world was opening up at my feet! August 2018 meant I attended Byline Festival – and in a field located in the middle of nowhere, under a sometimes miserable sky of stars, things began to take shape. My ideas about the world were being expanded, I was taught to question – and that is where I found PressPad, an organisation that offers affordable accommodation to interns in London. We stayed in touch – and never really stopped.
Why Is #PressPadRemote needed?
At the start of 2020, I was hell-bent on going for a long internship. Having freelanced for the last two years, I have experienced discrimination around employment; employers tend to see the label first. I have to legally declare I am Autistic to have any sort of work place adaptation – but it is like the shutters have come down, shutting me outside. Research suggests that something like three out of five employers would not hire me because of this – in spite of my experience and qualifications. I have often been the most experienced person, the most qualified candidate – and yet I have been told that I need to ‘prove myself’ more, to be worthy.
As the pandemic began, I was on the waiting list for the BBC. Each round has a series of tasks – and that is how the candidates are whittled down, to then be taken on. Due to the way the pandemic took hold, the scheme was abruptly cancelled for 2020. I was personally gutted, having spent many hours on my application – enough so I tracked down former interns to talk to. This was not unusual; stats indicate 61% of those who’d applied for work experience/internships were in the same position as me, now suddenly at a loose end.
In the first lockdown, #PressPadRemote ran. A free resource ran via Zoom in lieu of work experience placements/internships, you could have your CV checked, a pitch inspected, attend talks by those who had made it in a capricious industry.
In an industry that loves a story of an underdog, or to ‘back’ a dark horse, I have never felt like I have really found my place, let alone like I belong. Now, I do – because the CEO, Olivia Crellin, and Laura Garcia, another member of the PressPad team, understood immediately. It was more than just a pep talk – it was a rewiring of my brain to make me understood I was here, home. My commission rate has gone through the roof!
Why Are We Crowdfunding?
Right now, we are crowdfunding. We are asking for £15,000 to run a second season of #PressPadRemote – and this would be used to reach more people. A diverse media is a media that we all deserve; we pass the baton on. And you can help us do exactly that, by donating here.
Headline picture: Lydia Wilkins (right) with mentor Lesley-Ann Jones