Starting and quitting at a tabloid in Spain


Extra, extra. Read all about it: I worked for a tabloid.
This semester, I had the unfortunate experience of interning for a publication that did not align with the journalistic ethics I have been taught at DePauw.
Last spring, I hastily searched for and applied to dozens of papers throughout South America and Spain, hoping to find a suitable option for my Media Fellows internship. I came across a newspaper that regards itself as having some of the highest-quality reporting in Spain. It wasn't exactly what I was looking for, but I went for it.
After I exchanged emails with the editor, he said the publication would love to have an intern. Because very few Spanish-speaking newspapers liked the idea of taking an American intern, I accepted.
It became apparent early on that the paper wasn't all it was made out to be.
On more than one occasion, I was asked to copy content from other publications, steal their photos without crediting them and fabricate quotes to "liven up the paragraph."
When I explained to my sister what I did for my job, she quickly responded, "Oh, so it's like plagiarism?"
I couldn't really say, "No," because much of what I and the other writers did was essentially plagiarism. Every lesson on journalism ethics that I had ever learned was completely dejected by this paper's staff, especially the editor.
My colleagues and I sat in the office one day when our editor admitted to completely fabricating a quote. We brought up how unethical it was to do that, and the editor claimed it was well worth doing if the paper got more page views online or advertising dollars.
At that point, I made my decision to leave the publication.
After explaining to my professors what was going on and examining every possible option that would get me out of there, I found one.
I applied to a much larger and more reputable paper, crossed my fingers and hoped to hear back. About a week later, they responded, said they would interview me and see where it went from there.
After a translating test and brief conversation with an editor, they hired me. With my professor's blessing, I resigned from the tabloid and moved to the legitimate newspaper.
My editor was upset that I chose to leave and said I had no concept of "professionalism, or of how journalism works." It was a very ironic statement, coming from someone who fabricates quotes and encourages unethical journalism.
Needless to say, his comments did not have a very harsh impact. I moved to my new internship the next day.
DePauw protects us with its metaphorical bubble, but we can't stay in the bubble forever. One thing that my experience has taught me is to never settle and don't ever compromise yourself or your beliefs. And above all, when things get tough, don't let the discouraging editors of the world bring you down.
Things don't always work out the way you plan. They definitely didn't for me, but a wise professor told me this experience should be a "defining" one, and I feel confident that I have created a definition of which I can be very proud.

- Dana Ferguson is a junior from St. Louis Park, Minn., majoring in Spanish and communication.