Want to write about movies during the Toronto International Film Festival? You can, but you won’t get paid. Your Orwellian title will be “volunteer blog reporter.”

The Toronto International Film Festival Group is seeking Volunteer Blog Reporters for the Toronto International Film Festival®. This volunteer position is an excellent opportunity for an emerging writer or arts journalist who would like to develop her/his craft. It is an opportunity to work on a daily blog for one of the world’s leading film festivals.

The Blog Reporter will attend screenings with a programmer, or if requested, will be sent to another screening to cover it. Other duties may include taking photos, shooting videos, and interviewing filmgoers and contributors.

“Preference will be given to candidates” with “[f]lexible schedule[s]” and a “[j]ournalism background.” By the way, you have to provide your own computer and camera.

The Toronto International Film Festival Group had revenues of $19,899,510 in 2007 ($150,151 in retained earnings). They’re building their own tower, with other funding agencies and a real-estate deal, in a prime location downtown.

TIFF’s expenses for marketing and communications in 2007 were $2,381,141. If these three positions ran for three weeks and paid a (paltry) annualized $30,000 per year exclusive of benefits, then the total cost to TIFF would be $5,192. If the “volunteer” jobs paid $100,000 a year, it would still cost the Festival only about 17 grand.

I asked Christopher McKinnon, manager of volunteer and intern respources, “On what basis must reporters be volunteers if they write for blogs, but not if, say, they write for the media-relations department? Are they really reporters then?”

McKinnon’s answer (inevitably top-posted) did him no favours:

I am not sure how to answer your question – I suspect it is rhetorical.

“It wasn’t,” I replied.

This is a volunteer position, recruited and hired through the volunteer programme [British English sic]. They are indeed reporters, as they work in the function of reporters. They are volunteers and hence unpaid, in terms of money, though there are substantial non-monetary benefits.

Thanks for your (sort of) inquiry.

So they’re volunteers because we aren’t paying them and reporters because they’re reporting. But think of the exposure!

The Toronto International Film Festival is merely the latest extravagantly wealthy media organization to use blogging as a means of exploitation and cheap labour. McKinnon can’t even see what’s wrong with it. Here’s a hint for him: You draw a salary, don’t you?

The foregoing posting appeared on Joe Clark’s personal Weblog on 2008.08.10 18:03. This presentation was designed for printing and omits components that make sense only onscreen. (If you are seeing this on a screen, then the page stylesheet was not loaded or not loaded properly.) The permanent link is:

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None. I quit.

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