Australian 'Mole' Intern Reveals 'Sexist, Homophobic' Culture At Herald Sun Newspaper

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A student journalist has written a damning piece on her internship in a newsroom (file picture) | Alamy

A journalism student has written an article of her experiences at a national paper, revealing a "sexist, homophobic" culture in one of Australia's biggest newsrooms.

Now, the intern's article, which was published in her university's student paper, has whipped up a storm after the paper's editor-in-chief lodged a complaint.

Sasha Burden, a budding journalist who is studying at the University of Melbourne, undertook work experience at The Heard Sun in March.

Writing about her experience under the headline: "The Hun Mole: notes form a tabloid newsroom", she described her placement as "horrific".

"On the sixth day, a senior journalist sitting across from me repeatedly made transphobic comments to a peer who was discussing a potential story on a trans-person with him. His remarks included, 'He? She? It?', 'There has to be a photo of it', and 'You should put the heading - "My Life As A She-Man" or "G-boy" '. No-one in the newsroom reacted."

Phil Gardner, the editor-in-chief of the paper in question has since written to the university to complain about Burden's conduct, as the paper was not offered the right to reply to the article before publication according to The Australian.

The article was published in Burden's student paper Farrago, under the name "Anonymous". Burden added:

"The senior journalist opposite me moved from transphobia to homophobia on the eighth day, commenting on a recent piece on Catholic priests opposed to gay marriage: 'It's good to have the Catholics in the news with no pedophilia [sic]; although I guess there's still sex and gays."

Another media outlet, The Age, reports Gardner telling the university: "We would have liked the opportunity to address her concerns while she was here but at no time during her two-week internship did she raise … any issues or concerns relating to the nature and the people and processes she was exposed to."

Burden continued:

"On the seventh day, I was asked to write a story about pigs being used to test breast augmentation in a 'humorous' tone. I found the proposition absurd and informed my superior that I felt the story was essentially government funded animal cruelty. His response: 'You don’t mind if I buxom bacon it up? It’s worth is just so we can use the phrase "perky porkers".' "

At the end of the article, Burden says she left the paper's building feeling "as if all the life, love and passion in me had been sucked out, and replaced with mud".

She concludes:

"If Australia's big mastheads all function like this then I say bring on their decline. Huzzah to the future of online reporting."

Farrago editors defended the decision to publish the piece, saying the paper sought to express the opinion of one person only.

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