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Editor slams ‘unethical’ poaching of trainees amid industry recruitment boom

John Wilson HerefordAn editor has hit out at rival publishers over “unethical” attempts to poach his trainee journalists – claiming a recruitment boom in the industry has sparked an increase in the practice.

John Wilson, who edits Newsquest weekly the Hereford Times, has warned trainees not to let “flattery turn your head” after members of his editorial team were recently approached by “poachers”.

John, pictured, has called on the industry to act against what he called the “distasteful practice” in order to allow young reporters to complete their transition to senior journalist status without the “disturbing attention of covetous editors of other publications”.

Leading publishers including Archant, JPIMedia, Newsquest and Reach plc have recently launched recruitment drives across the country, which John believes has led to “too many employers chasing too few candidates”.

He confirmed to HTFP that members of his staff had recently rebuffed approaches from headhunters, and has written a blog offering advice to trainees on how to deal with such situations.

Wrote John: “Unfortunately, because the big publishers are all looking for staff at the same time there are too many employers chasing too few candidates. In response, some firms have resorted to poaching staff from their rivals.

“It is a novel situation for most rank-and-file journalists, and some will welcome it as an opportunity for career advancement and pay rises.

“I have no objection to the practice when it comes to qualified journalists. They operate in a free labour market, and by the time they have two or three years’ training and an NQJ under their belt they should have a fair idea of their own worth and where they want to go in the job.

“But targeting trainees or apprentices is to my mind unethical. They are (generally) young people whose limited experience makes them vulnerable.

“They should be allowed to complete their training within a stable framework of mentors free from the disturbing attention of covetous editors of other publications. I hope the industry will take action to curb this distasteful practice.”

John went on to advise trainee reporters not to “let flattery turn you head”, talk to their boss or a senior colleague if approached and to “beware of tempting pay offers”.

He added: “Remember why you wanted to be a journalist. Pay was not top of your list then, and it probably isn’t now. The crucial thing at this point of your career is being in a nurturing environment with quality training.

“You should be working towards your NQJ, after which you will get the pay rise you have earned through your commitment and effort. It will also position you to earn a higher salary as your career develops.

“You should also be alert for any catches in the poacher’s pay offer. Will they, for instance, give you another rise when you qualify as a senior, or are they just effectively paying it in advance now to persuade you to jump ship?”

Discussing the recent incidents involving his own staff, John told HTFP: “I’m happy to say they rebuffed the poachers, and will be continuing their training and development with Newsquest.

“They will be in a much stronger position to assess their career options both within the company and without once they have attained their NQJs.”