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Posts Tagged ‘unpaid interns’

The end of (unpaid) internships — about time?

In behavior, business, education, film, journalism, life, Media, Money, movies, news, television, US, work on November 2, 2013 at 12:51 pm

By Caitlin Kelly

As some of you know, this has been a year of lawsuits against major corporations with very deep pockets who have hired interns and either not paid them enough — or not paid them anything at all.

Experience, skills and a new network are deemed sufficient compensation.

internship

internship (Photo credit: Sean MacEntee)

The problem? No lower-income would-be employee can afford to rent space, feed and clothe themselves, let alone afford gas or subway fare, if they are not paid. A serious internship requires all the time and energy it takes to make that income “on the side” — which has meant that many internships are eagerly claimed by those whose parents or partner can afford to subsidize them.

If a company can keep its lights on and elevators running, it can afford to pay its interns!

Now, in response to all the hue and cry, Conde Nast — the publishing empire producing Vanity Fair, Glamour, Vogue, et al — has decided to end its internship program.

Here’s a piece about it from mediabistro.com, a major hub for Jnews:

there’s so much more to doing internships than just the desk work. As they’re pursued in such a transitional time of life, I believe they help to shape who you are not just professionally but also personally, and if
they’re done right, they can push you toward a decision about what you want to do with your life. For the rest of your life. What if other huge names like Condé Nast gave up on their internship programs? The New Yorker, in many circles, is considered the pinnacle of journalistic success.

And for fashion writers and enthusiasts, Vogue reaches those heights. Now, freshly graduated people are potentially left to knock on Condé Nast’s door with zero relationships in the building, having had no opportunity to show them that they can hack it at a major media title —the  shot you get during an internship.

English: I took this photograph of the footsto...

English: I took this photograph of the footstone of Conde Nast in Gate of Heaven Cemetery on April 9, 2007. Conde Nast was a real person — how would he feel about all this? GNU Free Documentation License – (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

And from The Globe and Mail:

I remember when my first internship ended, the staff gathered around to tell me what a wonderful a job I had done and wish me well. But instead of eating cake, I really wanted to blurt out “just put me on the payroll!”

On the other hand, that internship helped me land my first paying job. The hiring manager even overlooked his requirement that I possess a master’s degree in journalism from an expensive Ivy League college after seeing clippings of my articles published during that internship.

But somewhere along the line, internships – meant to bridge the skills gap between formal education and an entry-level job – evolved into an accepted way for companies to demand free labour.

In recent years, a chorus of discontent has arisen over unpaid internships, most notably in several high-profile lawsuits, including ones against Fox Searchlight Pictures and Hearst Magazines. Condé Nast shut down its internship program last week after an earlier lawsuit.

I have strong opinions about this as I’ve been hiring — and paying — interns and assistants for more than a decade, paying them a low wage of $10 hour to a maximum of $15/hour. I had an unpaid intern, Jessica, who received college credit for the semester we worked together — by the time it ended, I’d grown so reliant on her helpful good cheer I paid her $12/hour, and then (with one phone call) found her her first post-grad job, in the field she wanted.

On my first book, “Blown Away: American Women and Guns”, I truly was broke, yet managed to find four bright, capable young women to help me with research — without pay. They were excited to contribute to a work of women’s history and I was deeply grateful for their skill and energy. One of them, 11 years later, remains a friend and colleague; she went on to work for one of NPR’s biggest national radio programs.

Cover of "Blown Away: American Women and ...

Cover of Blown Away: American Women and Guns

Since then, I’ve worked with about a dozen others, some fantastic, some less so. But I’ve paid all of them, even those without a shred of journalism experience or training. It’s a win-win for us both — they learn a lot, quickly, by doing substantive work and I am freed from endless administrative tasks to get on with higher-value work I need to do.

These are not full-time jobs. I can’t pay anyone thousands of dollars a month; i.e. a living wage. But I spend hundreds, sometimes close to a thousand dollars, each year to hire and pay people for their skills.

If someone is offering you a skill — and you, and your company, are profiting from their labor, pay them.

It seems pretty simple to me.

Have you done a paid (or unpaid) internship?

Was it as valuable as you’d hoped?

Hey Kids, Write Free! Exposure Will Pay Next Year's Tuition — Dartmouth Now $52,275

In business, education, Media on February 25, 2010 at 9:58 am
WASHINGTON - MAY 06:  Arianna Huffington (C), ...

Pay for content? You're kidding, right? Image by Getty Images via Daylife

The Huffington Post continues its tradition of trading “exposure” for lots of unpaid hard work. Sign up, kids!

The new vertical, HuffPost College, will rely on that sexy, growing and emerging new class of journo’s — “citizens” (aka free labor) — to contribute/donate their time, skills and talent for exposure. Exposure won’t pay Visa or Mastercard or put gas in your car or groceries in your fridge. It’s BS, plain and simple, and it’s sucking in entire legions of the desperate in the race to fill the web with free or low-paid content.

I have been writing for a living, earning four-figure checks for my ideas and skills, since my sophomore year of college, (no, not J-school). It meant, from an early, unconfident, less-experienced position — which is where many of us start out from –learning how to negotiate with editors many decades my senior. Not fun, not easy, not always successfully.

I once overheard an editor pleading with a fellow columnist, whose work filled the same weekly Toronto newspaper section I was writing for as well, to stay — “You’ll lose $200 a week!” she said. I was making $125. Hm. I went into her boss that day and asked for a raise. I was 19. (Didn’t get it, but learned how totally random “value” appears to those who buy your copy.)

Whatever your age, writing is a job, not a hobby!

The endless ugly secret of who gets to write for “free” and wh0 doesn’t boils down to who can afford to do it. Very few students can afford to give away their time  — and those who can continue to form a media elite of the middle-class and up whose parents pick up the costs for them while media mavens pocket profits.

Enough already!

I have written without pay, in 30 years, maybe 10 times, as a pro bono choice to support a cause I believe in or to promote my books. Riley Waggaman, a full-time student at Wheaton College, is a T/S contributor, is getting paid to write here, as are we all.

Just. Say. No.

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