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Tuesday, 2 March 2021

NFL Network reporter Jane Slater, 40, whose grandfather ran $180 million Wolf Brand Chili sparks a firestorm after she posts unpaid internship - then says people should be happy to work for free and that she started in TV for $16,500

 An NFL Network, who comes from a family of multimillionaires, sparked a firestorm after tweeting a post for an unpaid intern - and arguing that aspiring journalists should be happy to work without pay. 

Jane Slater, 40, of Texas, was furious at the backlash over the intern ad, branding commenters 'rotten' for pointing out that unpaid positions posed a serious barrier for people from a less privileged background.

Slater admits she was financially supported by her wealthy family during her career - with a lot of help from her grandfather, Uriah 'Ray' Shockley, retired president of Wolf Brand Chili. 


But she insisted that people who want to work in competitive fields like journalism had to hustle to get ahead - including taking unpaid work for experience.  

NFL Network reporter Jane Slater has sparked a firestorm after tweeting on Monday that her team was looking for an unpaid intern to work alongside them
NFL Network reporter Jane Slater has sparked a firestorm after tweeting on Monday that her team was looking for an unpaid intern to work alongside them

NFL Network reporter Jane Slater has sparked a firestorm after tweeting on Monday that her team was looking for an unpaid intern to work alongside them


The Twitter storm kicked off on Monday after Slater tweeted the position on her personal account.

'Broadcast journalism students: exciting internship opportunity for you,' she tweeted to her 162,000 followers on Monday morning.

'Can you set up well lit zoom/Skype calls, record, edit them and want access to the league’s top draft prospects? It’s not with @BobbyBeltTX and I but it is in the DFW area. Unpaid. Great experience. Inbox me.'

Slater, pictured in March last year, has worked with ESPN and as a radio host before NFL Network

Slater, pictured in March last year, has worked with ESPN and as a radio host before NFL Network

The response was mixed; with some seizing the opportunity to work in connection with the well-known sideline reporter and ESPN anchor.

But others noted that they were unable to work for free, calling unpaid internships 'unethical'. 

Slater swiftly became defensive, beginning a row which rapidly escalated.

She noted that her first job paid $16,500 a year, and said aspiring journalists needed to be prepared to hustle for their first jobs. 

'I posted an opportunity for an unpaid internship and I’m amazed the comments I get,' she complained.

'It’s not even for me. It’s for someone else and I would have jumped at it in college. I had 3 unpaid internships in school, double majored and had a job. SMH'

But people were quick to point out Slater's millionaire family meant she had a safety net many could only dream of.

Rich Madrid tweeted: 'Jane Slater's family made their wealth in the food manufacturing business. She likely had financial backing keeping her afloat.'

As the criticism mounted, she continued: 'To the people shaming me for my hardworking grandfather and parents who instilled a similar work ethic to achieve success, you are rotten. 

'You have no idea about my childhood or my family but it’s not even close to the picture you all paint. 

'Very ugly people on this app.' 

She also retweeted comments supportive of her offer.

Slater has admitted in the past that her career was helped financially by her family - in particular her grandfather, Uriah 'Ray' Shockley, retired president of Wolf Brand Chili

Albert Breer, a senior NFL reporter at NBC Boston, replied: 'Here's a fact: Lots of people want to work in sports. Because of that, entry-level jobs are challenging in a variety of ways. And if you don't take one, and make the most of it, someone else will.

'This also isn't unique. That's how competitive industries work.'

Matt Miller, ESPN's draft analyst, told his 256,000 Twitter followers: 'I turned an unpaid writing opportunity at Bleacher Report into where I am now.

'Would have never ever made it 10 years in this business or to ESPN without that chance.'

Lance Zierlein, draft analyst at NFL.com, added: 'I worked for free from 1994-1996 at a radio station. I also had my own handicapping business at the time that I ran out of the kitchen of my apartment with a wife and two kids. I got my first paid radio show in 1997 and still hustling it today! That's what up.' 

Yet others within the industry were more critical.

Chris Paul Towers, a journalist with CBS Sports, told Slater: 'I just don't understand why you're so unwilling to engage with the point people are trying to make: that not everyone has the opportunity to take advantage of unpaid internships.

'They are barriers to entry into the field that have nothing to do with work ethic or talent.' 

Paul Sporer, a podcaster with ESPN, said: 'No one is shaming you and no one is rotten for pointing out the financial SECURITY you had to take on unpaid internships.'

Slater's grandfather's company was sold by Quaker Oats, the parent company, in 1995 for $180 million, along with Van Camp's canned beans.

Shockley died in 2008, aged 82.

Asked in June 2015 by ESPN who she most admired, Slater said it was her grandfather.  

'Both of his parents were deaf but he helped raise two incredibly successful siblings,' she explained. 

'He never received a college degree but managed to become president of Wolf Brand Chili and later made it the official bowl of Texas. 

'He was insistent that I pursue a college education and helped support me both emotionally and financially with receiving one at Texas. He taught me the importance of chasing your dreams and never taking “no” for an answer.' 

After several hours, Slater issued a statement, defending her intentions.

'I acknowledge that I had a grandfather who had money but I did not grow up rich,' she said.

'I always had a job and was taught to value hard work and paying my own bills.

'Did others have it harder? Absolutely. Which is why I always want and feel compelled to help others when I can.'

She apologized for 'coming across as "elitist" today' and insisted she only wanted to help.

'But to be very clear, I don't think you should ever work for free. Especially organizations that have you writing content, logging tape etc, but I also believe if you can gain experience or find a mentor you should.'

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