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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. Coming from the position of a recent college grad, I have no problem with unpaid internships. In fact, I worked an unpaid internship for the Rivals.com network for about a year and a half. Ultimately, it led to me getting access to the teams I covered, building a good portfolio and networking with other professionals in the industry who helped me land my first post-grad, full-time job.

    In fact, several times I had the opportunity to get paid for the internship, but made it very clear to my employer that money wasn't important to me in college; I simply wanted the experience and the opportunity to get my name out there. Was that naive? Probably. I paid my way through college on my own dime and incurred a small loan doing so, pinching pennies the whole way.

    But that internship built me many of the connections that got me pretty well intertwined into the network I wanted to be in. I landed a brief freelancing position with the Palm Beach Post before being offered a full-time job elsewhere before I even graduated.

    Now I have a job I love and will have my loans paid off before they even start accruing interest. Would I have gotten the job had I tried for a paid internship instead? Possibly. But I do think my recommendations were stronger because I worked my ass off for a year and a half without asking for a dime. So, from my perspective, an unpaid internship worked out just fine.
  2. Stitch

    Stitch Active Member

    What a surprise, another recent grad who's was willing to work for free. Are you willing to work 80 hours and get paid for 40 as well? To not take any money when it was offered was just foolish.

    Let's face it, there are laws and rules regarding unpaid internships. Any decent editor would pounce on a big company in his/her area if those companies broke the law.
  3. If that's the only way I thought I could keep a job, you bet your ass I'd be willing to work 80 hours and only get paid for 40. You do what you've got to do to make a living.
  4. JimmyHoward33

    JimmyHoward33 Well-Known Member

    This is terribly naive. There are laws against you doing this, "just to make a living." Odds are, any company that's asking you to work 80 for 40 pay is not giving you a decent living. There are exceptions, but in those walks of life folks are well compensated for their sacrifices. In this business, they are not.

    Frankly, this attitude among my peers scares the crap out me as a younger journalist. It doesn't behoove anyone to accept menial pay, expectations of commitment and work ethic that go way beyond that pay scale and just generally getting trampled on in hopes it'll lead to a "big break" so it'll all be worth it.

    You get what you pay for, and we're allowing management to get Sony quality at Vizio prices.
  5. sgreenwell

    sgreenwell Well-Known Member

    I agree. I'm also young-ish at 27, and if you don't set what you're worth, nobody will ever meet you at that. I'm normally OK with the idea of doing an unpaid internship, except in a lot of shops, you essentially are doing the job of a full-time employee and not getting a ton of oversight.
  6. I'm in total agreement that it's not right, and it's not fair. But that wasn't the question that was asked me. The question was whether I'd be willing to do it. And like I said in my response, if that's what it takes for me to have a job right now and be able to support myself, then that's what I'm going to do.

    Is it the ideal situation? Of course not. I'd be a complete moron to think otherwise.

    At the end of the day, though, I chose journalism as a career. I'm the one that has to live with that. Unfortunately, right now, the reality of the industry is that our skills are undervalued because the industry hasn't found a good way to monetize our work. Until it does, the market for journalists seeking jobs is going to have far more very qualified, out-of-work journalists than it should.

    As a young journalist, right now the only edge I have is that I'm willing to outwork my competition. That's what it boils down to. I may not have the experience or the raw talent that others who have been around longer have, but you can be sure I'm going to use everything I can to give myself an edge and make myself employable. And if that means I work a little longer than 40 hours in a week, then so be it. I knew when I signed up that might be the case.

    For the record, I don't work 80 hours a week.
  7. SoCalScribe

    SoCalScribe Member

    Gee, do you think the income of your interns' parents might have something to do with the fact that your internship is unpaid? I can't understand why you are pretending not to be aware of this connection.

    Pay your interns and you might get some talented kids who have to do things like not own a car, use public transit, eat ramen noodles, live in an overcrowded apartment in a bad neighborhood...oh, and work their ass off in hopes of making a life for themselves.
  8. SoCalScribe

    SoCalScribe Member

    As for Slate, I am a very diligent reader, but they are prone to a certain arrogance. Reminds me of a recent New Yorker article about the taxi drivers' union written by someone whose first name in her byline was "Lizzie" and was self-described as a Manhattan resident, earning above-average income, being female and often taking taxis due to inappropriate (read: expensive and stylish) shoe choices.

    Now THAT is someone deserving of an unpaid internship.
  9. JCT89

    JCT89 Active Member

    I don't post on much stuff but that's a very douchey article. As a former Slate intern, one that was mentioned in the piece, it did come off as condescending to me. I understand Chris' main point about the way journalism has changed, particularly with budgets and such, but I think he could have expressed that in a much better way.

    That's not to say it wasn't a good internship--there was a ton to do there and some of the people that work there are absolutely brilliant. But I think as someone mentioned earlier, there tends to be a bit of arrogance and ego within the office.
  10. dirtybird

    dirtybird Well-Known Member

    That last part seems like an easy way to disqualify most sports interns.
  11. PCLoadLetter

    PCLoadLetter Well-Known Member

    Two things...

    (a) Sorry, the "I'm too poor for an internship" thing doesn't wash. If you can make it through college, you can hack spending a couple of afternoons a week at an internship (for credit -- the kid would be in an extra class in most cases). And we've had our share of interns who've taken public transportation to get here, too.

    (b) Pay them for what? To follow around a reporter? To spend a half-hour writing and re-writing a story as I coach them, when I could have written it myself in literally 60 seconds? To watch someone edit? Our interns are not free labor -- they are students learning in the newsroom environment. I'm very happy to help them learn, but my job is significantly easier when I'm not dealing with an intern, and that goes for virtually everyone in my shop.

    If you're using an intern as labor, you should be paying them. I worked in a shop many years ago that laid off workers and replaced them with interns -- the interns were actually put on the schedule in the slots where the employees used to be. That's absolutely wrong -- but it's also not universal.
  12. JonnyD

    JonnyD Member

    Don't pay them to job-shadow, but if they produce something your newspaper uses, they should at least get stringer's pay or something.
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