Fraser Nelson Fraser Nelson

Internships at The Spectator for 2020: no CVs (or names!) please

The Spectator is now the fastest-growing current affairs magazine not just in Britain but Europe. In April, we’ll become the first magazine in the world to publish a 10,000th issue. Our success is driven by our writers and those who make sparks fly here in 22 Old Queen St. When we hire, we do so by asking back former interns. Applications for our 2020 scheme are open now. 

We don’t ask for CVs: we don’t care where (or whether) you went to university. When we judge applications we don’t even look at names: our HR department takes them out. I write this in an office with four of our former interns: Cindy Yu, our podcast editor, a Lidl store manager before she joined us. John Connolly, our news editor: a few years ago he was working in the hotel where we host The Spectator’s Parliamentarian of the Year awards. Gus Carter, also news editing: he had a job in journalism before, but took holiday to intern with us. Tali Fraser, who’s still at Leeds uni but freelances for us (her uni is currently on strike, so she’s here with us for three weeks).

Our scheme has a high reputation in Fleet Street and many of our interns have done well in other publications. Katherine Forster was a 48-year-old mum-of-three with no previous journalism experience when she interned with us: she is now at the Sunday Times. Maddy Kearns, a former teacher now at the US National Review and Ben Gartside who (he doesn’t mind me saying) left school with two Es at A-Level. He was, and is, brilliant: exams are a snapshot of how things were going for you at a certain point in your teenage years which is why CVs are of limited use. Gartside scored the highest of all our 2018 interns and is now at the Daily Telegraph. NB: this is not a positive discrimination scheme. We don’t believe in discrimination. You might be a Rothermere relative, you might be a 35-year-old shelf-stacker. We don’t care and we don’t ask. All that matters is flair, enthusiasm and capacity for hard work.

We do ask that you’d be two years away from seeking an entry-level job because we’re serious about this and need people we could potentially hire this year or next.

Our 2020 internships are split into three main categories. If you think you have a niche outside of the below options, feel free to get in touch and let us know:

1) Editorial Assisting the magazine and website team. We’re looking for someone with a natural instinct for what The Spectator stands for. This will involve: suggesting guests or writers, helping edit copy. coming up with new ideas for the magazine and Coffee House and helping to come up with ways to promote these pieces on different platforms.

2) Political mischief Working with our deputy political editor Katy Balls and the online team on Coffee House politics coverage. We’re looking for someone with a keen interest in current affair and who is willing to get stuck in whether it’s picking up the phone to stand up a story or spending a day going through the archive to find a quote.

3) Broadcast Assisting our podcast editor Cindy Yu with the production of our suite of podcasts, from Coffee House Shots to Americano, the Book Club, and Women With Balls. You don’t need a lot of audio experience – but a willingness to learn about new tech and an enthusiasm for podcasts and great conversations.

The tasks, of which you should pick at least four:


Complete at least four of the tasks below:

  • Suggest a cover story and an author for it.
  • The Spectator will publish its 10,000th issue in April. What piece would you commission to mark the occasion?
  • Write two web headlines for any five Spectator magazine articles (so ten in total).
  • Rewrite any Bill Cash speech as a pithy 500-word article.
  • Find two factual errors in column by a commentator of your choice (Polly Toynbee and Danny Dorling excluded).
  • Suggest a poll question for The Spectator Christmas issue and five people who would be good to answer it.
  • Create a short social media video to promote a Spectator magazine article or podcast episode.
  • Suggest three improvements to The Spectator magazine and three to the website.
  • Write a 300-word blog for the Spectator Life website.
  • Explain in no more than 200 words how we could make better use of social media.


Complete at least three of the tasks below:

  • Which MP has changed their position on Boris Johnson the most times? Provide evidence for your claim in a 250 word blog.
  • Send three topics for a Freedom of Information request.
  • What do Chris Leslie and Chris Williamson have in common? (Note: the answer can’t simply be their names).
  • Boris Johnson and his team don’t like to see the People’s Government accepting freebies. File a 250 word blog detailing which minister has accepted the most jollies this year – provide evidence for your claim.
  • Send three ideas for a Steerpike story.
  • Submit an article with the headline ‘Six people who think they could be Britain’s… xxx’ – choosing a public figure of your choice (this link, for reference).

BROADCAST (NB We’re still recruiting for a proper job as a podcast producer: details here)

Do one or both of the below:

  • Produce and present a short podcast (max 7 minutes) on a session of PMQs – pick out the highlights, play the clips, and explain what’s going on.
  • Produce and present a short video explaining a news story you have seen.

And at least two of the below:

  • List potential podcast guest line-ups for three stories found from recent issues of The Spectator (one must be current affairs). Briefly explain why you chose each guest.
  • Write podcast scripts introducing three stories found from recent issues of The Spectator.
  • Give three suggestions for how to grow podcast listenership.
  • Pitch a new podcast series – title, topic, guests, host, music.
  • Point to at least one thing we’re doing wrong with our current podcasts

We are also looking for a full-time podcast producer – find details here.


Please say which internship scheme you’d like to be considered for (you can enter more than one). Then in your email, two attachments: your test entry, and a covering letter (max 400 words) on what you could bring to The Spectator. Don’t say anything about your age, work experience or background (and no sly mentions, Oxbridge students, none of this ‘my student newspaper: Cherwell,’ or talking about going ‘up’ to uni, etc.)

There’s one exception to this: do mention any journalistic experience, or if you’re applying for/have been accepted to postgraduate studies in journalism as they do demonstrate determination. Anyone in journalism will need a lot of that. Remedial support is available for PPE students.

In your email, include your full contact details – but don’t put your name in your letter, or your test entry. The emails go to our HR department, who’ll assign you a codename. The entries are then judged by Spectator staff: the top 50 are then marked by three people, and internships go to the 12 with the highest scores.

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All of our internships are paid (although not very much) and transport costs covered. Some of our interns stay with family or friends in London but arrangements can be made for those with no such connections: no one should be deterred from applying on any financial grounds. Two-week internships are available throughout the summer, from May to the end of September, so please also include any preference.

We take this seriously: it’s how we recruit and we are hiring. So please don’t apply if you aren’t realistically going to be looking for a full-time job in journalism the next year or so. We do offer work experience placements for school pupils, through the Social Mobility Foundation so those interested can apply through them.

Applications close on 13 April. Email with ‘Intern application: editorial’ or whichever one you’re doing, with the two (name-free) attachments.

UPDATE: In light of the disruption caused by coronavirus in recent weeks, we are extending the application deadline to 15 June. If needs be, we’ll offer virtual internships. We expect to emerge stronger than ever from this crisis, in no small part due to the brilliance and dedication of those we met on our internship scheme. We’ll need to hire more such people, so will press ahead. Not quite sure how yet, but we’ll keep you posted. Meanwhile: apply! 


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