A journalism student at the University of Melbourne has exposed what she described as a “sexist, transphobic and homophobic culture” at the Herald Sun, one of the country’s biggest newspapers.

Sarah Burden undertook work experience in the Herald Sun newsroom in March this year and published her piece in the student paper Farrago under the headline: “The Hun Mole: Notes from a Tabloid Newsroom”. She described her placement as “horrific”.

In the article, Ms Burden wrote: “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.”

She 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. [He said:] ‘It’s good to have the Catholics in the news with no pedophilia [sic], although I guess there’s still sex and gays.”

The article has caused a storm after Phil Gardner, the editor-in-chief of the Herald Sun, lodged a complaint. Mr Gardner has since written to the university to complain about Ms Burden’s conduct, as according to The Australian, the paper was not offered the right to reply to the article before publication.

Ms Burden concluded that her stint at the newspaper left her feeling like she’d had “all the passion” sucked out of her. She ended her piece: “If Australia’s big mastheads all function like this then I say bring on their decline. Huzzah to the future of online reporting.”