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The Spectator Internship 2023: apply now!

The Spectator’s no-CV internship scheme is now open. We don’t care how old you are, where (or even if) you went to university, whether you’re a refugee or a baronet.

All that matters in journalism is whether you can do it: do you have good, original ideas, and care about good writing? We have doubled our circulation in a market that has fallen by two-thirds because we believe that nothing matters more than the quality of the people we hire.

We’re mindful that good people come in all shapes, sizes and locations, which is why we put a lot of effort into finding the very best staff.

A dozen internship offers go to the people with the highest average scores on the anonymised applications. They come in for a week of their choosing – and the best one gets asked back to help with our Christmas special. They’ll be paid (but not very much) and helped with accommodation costs if needed.

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No one is marked up or down for accidents of birth: you play the hand you’re dealt in life.

The no-name aspect is in honour of Dan Hitchens (2016), one of the best interns we’ve ever had. Yes: he’s the son of Peter, nephew of Christopher.

But he’s an outstanding writer and his recent piece about living on a houseboat has been one of our best-read pieces this month.

Why should you apply?

Because it’s the most open contest in journalism, ergo, the toughest. If you’re heading for a first from Brasenose, you would be up against talent from all over the country – not just horses bred for one particular race.

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If you’re a 48-year-old mum whose kids have grown up and you’ve always fancied journalism, only The Spectator’s internship will judge you on your talent alone and let you be a middle-aged intern. This was the story of Katherine Forster, now a full-time journalist at GB news (she writes about it here). Experience never gets old.

We welcome career-changers

people who are a few years into a job and see their tramlines heading in the wrong direction. I was on Question Time with Fiona Bruce last week: she was a management consultant and would cry in the loos at lunchtime because she hated it so much. So she started at the bottom in journalism, aged 25: the rest is history. In The Spectator’s offices we have two former civil servants, an ex-barman, a former Lidl manager and more.

Anyway, to this year’s challenge:

General editorial internship: complete at least three of the below tasks.

  • Suggest three potential cover stories and possible writers (not Spectator regulars).
  • Find a factual error in any op-ed published in a broadsheet (we want to make it a bit harder this year, so you can’t choose anything by Polly Toynbee).
  • Suggest three ideas for Spectator Life (non-travel).
  • What subjects do not get enough coverage in The Spectator? Write a short memo pitch for covering one of these issues and what a fresh, new angle might be that we could then cover in the magazine (ideally as a cover story). Then suggest writers who could do it in a stylish, engaging and informative way (who are not usual Spectator contributors). Explain your choice.
  • Write three separate web headlines for three articles from our archive.
  • Name three ways to improve The Spectator’s digital offering.
  • Write three tweets promoting any one story.
  • Provide socio-economic support for any two Beyoncé lyrics (one A4 page only).

Steerpike political mischief internship:pick one of the above and at least two of the below.

  • Which politician has had the worst year? Explain in 200 words. (No Matt Hancock, please.)
  • What do Kensington and Bolton North East have in common? Explain in 150 words.
  • Suggest three Freedom of Information requests that could lead to a story.
  • Attend an event, in-person or virtually, where a public figure is likely to be speaking off-guard (but on the record). Write it up as a Steerpike. Doesn’t have to be the full Rupa Huq: this entry will be judged by the initiative shown.
  • What’s the most egregious tweet deleted by Neil O’Brien?
  • You’re on the political mischief internship and are told you need to find a Steerpike story – how do you spend the next 60 minutes?

Broadcast internship: do all three.

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  • Produce a short video (no more than five minutes) explaining a recent article you read in The Spectator.
  • Suggest five guests for the Marshall Matters podcast.
  • Point to three things we’re doing wrong with our current podcasts or Spectator TV.

Sales or marketing: do two of the below.

  • Spectator subscriber has cancelled: draft the final email they’ll be sent, with a view to winning them back.
  • Write an advert for The Spectator (or produce it on audio or video).
  • Suggest two ways our newly re-designed world or newsletter pages could be further improved.
  • Suggest an ‘in conversation’ for a Spectator event, panel and topics of discussion.

Research: We’re not looking for research interns this year, but will reconsider if we find anyone who can answer sword-from-the-stone questions. We don’t expect anyone to be able to do them and will pay £500 to the first person who does so to a standard that we could publish.

  • Design an embeddable ‘cost of Sunak’ tax calculator that factors in not just income tax and PAYE but a credible estimate of VAT spent (feel free to ask questions of users).
  • The Tories say people living in areas controlled by Labour PCCs were 44 per cent more likely to be victims of knife crime but is the real link that of deprivation and crime, rather than political control?
  • Replicate this Bjorn Lomborg study (Fig17): how robust are his assumptions?
  • Calculate the ‘healthy life expectancy at birth’ estimate for England LSOAs for 2019-21. Show working.

Please put the tasks and a covering letter into two separate documents and email your entry to [email protected]. Remember, no CV and no hints of academic prowess, no matter how stellar. Please don’t apply if you have a job lined up: it denies places to those for whom this opportunity could be life-changing. And don’t apply if you have more than two years’ more of education yet to run.

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The deadline is 1 May but there is merit in applying early, as we need help now and could easily make early offers to particularly strong applications. If you’re reading this thinking ‘I’d never pass such a test’, I’d urge you to have a go.

Svitlana Morenets, a newly exiled journalist from Ukraine, only knew one British politician – Boris Johnson – when she saw our internship advert last year. She applied and won not just an internship but a job (she’s sitting next to me now). The questions should be enjoyable. I’ll sign off with Katherine Forster’s advice:‘Getting the internship transformed my life… My advice would be: just go for it, whatever you want to do. However unlikely or impossible it may seem, you never know what may happen.’


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