By H.G. Watson, Associate Editor
Aspiring Toronto Star interns no longer need to provide a photo of themselves doing an activity they enjoy as part of their application.
Paul Woods, executive editor of the Star, told J-Source the paper is now asking applicants for a 50-word description of an “unusual activity or exciting adventure you have enjoyed.”
Last year, the Star started asking applicants to its internship program to provide a photo of themselves doing an activity they enjoyed and the best joke they’ve ever heard.
Woods told J-Source the morning of Mar. 16 that the requirements were added because the paper wanted to attract candidates who may have favoured new media organizations over the Star.
“It’s really more to try to encourage candidates that might not have considered us a place worth applying to,” Woods said. Some potential candidates may believe the Star is “old school” and “not an exciting place to work,” he said, an idea he disputes.
“We believe we are an exciting place to work and that we provide extremely exciting and interesting assignments for our interns frequently.”
Woods added that last year, applications were still considered if they had not provided either a photo or a joke. However, either requirement was meant to serve as a way for candidates to potentially distinguish themselves from the hundreds of people who apply for Star internships yearly.
On Mar. 14, Motherboard reporter Kaleigh Rogers pointed out the requirements on Twitter, leading some to question what use the photo served.
So the Toronto Star now requires all prospective interns include a photo in their applications? https://t.co/izoES3xnnZ— Kaleigh Rogers (@KaleighRogers) March 14, 2016
@KaleighRogers Is it possible this is a way to get a "diverse" internship cohort without using names to judge ethnicity?— Stephanie MacLellan (@smaclellan) March 14, 2016
Woods said it was not the intended as a way to profile candidates based on appearance or anything else.
“The exact opposite—we’re trying to cast the net as wide as we can,” he said.
The Ontario Human Rights Commission cautions employers against asking for photos of applicants, as the image could relay information about a number of Ontario Human Rights Code grounds for discrimination.
However, in practice, some media organizations do ask for images of potential job applicants. In TV news media, candidates often provide demo reels demonstrating their on-air experience.
On the afternoon of Mar. 16, Woods contacted J-Source to say that he had consulted with colleagues and that the Star would be changing its internship application requirements, effective immediately.
“If it takes away any suggestion of something that might be discriminatory, or something like that, which was obviously never the intent, then we were happy to have that be out,” he said.
Woods said he believes the new requirement, which is just longer than a tweet, will help reach the same goal as asking for a photo—finding candidates who stand out and can engage and interest the reader within a limited word count.
“That doesn't give you a lot of room, so I think it makes the challenge quite difficult,” he said. “And I think that’s good.”