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Slate: We don't pay interns, but we will accept their baked goods.

Discussion in 'Journalism topics only' started by sgreenwell, May 28, 2011.

  1. sgreenwell

    sgreenwell Well-Known Member

    I'm normally a fan of Slate, but man, this column paints them in a pretty poor light when it comes to how they treat their interns: http://www.slate.com/id/2295652/

    Are there paid internships anymore? I did mine at a small daily in Rhode Island for a year and a half and made $9.50 an hour, I believe. Some of my other friends got freelance wages, while others got nothing, from different chains.
  2. I know it's standard in some industries, but I think unpaid internships are unethical and disgusting.
  3. Stitch

    Stitch Active Member

    This is the test that has to be met for unpaid interns. All six points have to be met.


    The internship, even though it includes actual operation of the facilities of the employer, is similar to training which would be given in an educational environment;
    The internship experience is for the benefit of the intern;
    The intern does not displace regular employees, but works under close supervision of existing staff;
    The employer that provides the training derives no immediate advantage from the activities of the intern; and on occasion its operations may actually be impeded;
    The intern is not necessarily entitled to a job at the conclusion of the internship; and
    The employer and the intern understand that the intern is not entitled to wages for the time spent in the internship.
  4. Mark2010

    Mark2010 Active Member

    Never got paid for my internship, back in the day. Didn't know better.
  5. PCLoadLetter

    PCLoadLetter Well-Known Member

    This is exactly how we treat our interns, who are unpaid. Also they have to be enrolled in school and they have to be getting class credit for the internship.

    When I was an intern many years ago my role certainly extended beyond those guidelines, but that's what prepared me for a job in the business that started the week my internship ended. So, no complaints.

    On any given day at my shop you could go out to the parking lot and pick out the five nicest cars. Three of them likely belong to interns. Not losing a lot of sleep on the lack of pay for them at my place.
  6. dirtybird

    dirtybird Well-Known Member

    They probably are, but what can be done? Paid interns means fewer internships. Meaning fewer chances to pad resumes. I'm sure a lot of prospective interns don't want that.

    And internships for credit are, in my experience, kind of a crock. Schools are inconsistent about requirements. It often seems like adding another level of work (papers about experience, work the boss has to do) and the only payout is "credits." Credits the intern has to pay for, which often count minimally toward completing a degree.

    Admittedly some schools require internships for graduation, and that's awesome. Sadly many don't.
  7. Turtle Wexler

    Turtle Wexler Member

    This point has come up in similar discussions before, but relying on unpaid internships means journalism will become the province of the upper-middle-class, because those are the parents who will subsidize junior's dreams. This is a great way to ensure a lack of socioeconomic diversity in our industry's employment pool.

    That said, I didn't take the Slate piece as an uppity "look how badly we treat interns! and get away with it!" I took it as one reporter's reflection on how quickly and deeply things have changed in their newsroom, which I'm sure could be echoed across many newsrooms.
  8. That's very true, and I think that's been one of the criticisms of the high-end magazine industry that historically has relied on unpaid internships to a far higher degree than the newspaper business. It's reflected in the background of the people that ultimately go to work there.
  9. sgreenwell

    sgreenwell Well-Known Member

    I took that to be the writer's intent as well, but the column came off as poorly executed to me. I'm a fan of his previous articles though, especially one about the Groupthink that develops among editors on Wikipedia.
  10. dirtybird

    dirtybird Well-Known Member

    Doesn't the industry do this in some sense already? Obviously there is the valuation of things like unpaid internships and unpaid or badly paid school newspaper work. But right now we have a business that pays little, often forces a prospective job seeker to move far from where he or she would like to live, usually at great cost (often not reimbursed), and does not offer a ton of stability to top it all off. If someone from the lower half of the socioeconomic spectrum had all the skills of a good journalist (strong writer, good communicator, well organized, clear-headed in stressful situations), well there are probably much more lucrative and stable applications of said skills.

    I love that you used the phrase "subsidize junior's dreams," because I think it cuts to the heart of the issue. If someone in the upper-middle class, they can afford to think in terms of following a passion and trying to do what they loves above all else. And an individual can often afford that outlook becuase of the subsidy provided by family. I'd imagine someone lower on the socioeconomic ladder would have to take a more pragmatic approach. The industry seems like it's in many ways geared to taking advantage of the way many people see journalism as a passion.

    Even small things play a role, like access to a car for a high school or college kid who wants to freelance for the local paper, or the ability to survive even a short stretch of unemployment (although it rarely feels short).

    Now I'm not trying to jump on the one half of your comment, it's just that whenever the socioeconomic question come up, it just sticks with me (and this probably misguided rant sprung forth). I also admit, this is speaking in generalities. There are certainly many journalists who did not come from upper-middle class or wealthy backgrounds. That being said, it just doesn't seem like the industry does much or even can do much to foster socioeconomic diversity, at least from my perspective.

    Note: As it's been a them this week, I'll admit I'm a younger journalist, still somewhat close to the process of trying to get started in this business. My views reflect that admittedly smaller experience base. Should some older, wiser poster see it differently, see something in the industry encouraging socioeconomic diversity and discouraging the subsidized lifestyle, please feel free to correct me.
  11. Turtle Wexler

    Turtle Wexler Member

    Excellent job expounding upon my point, dirtybird.
  12. JimmyHoward33

    JimmyHoward33 Well-Known Member

    Our internship was unpaid when I had it some years ago, and has always been so. However it seems corporate is a wee bit concerned about the above definition of an unpaid internship not at all fitting what we were asking these kids to do. So they moved to cancel it all together, but the kid we'd already "hired" unpaid said he would end up losing college credit because he'd already signed up for the course and all (this corporate thing came down maybe 4 weeks before he was supposed to start). So they're paying him min. wage. Not sure if the program will continue next semester.
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