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Unpaid Internships?

Discussion in 'Journalism topics only' started by SholdMediaGroup, Mar 30, 2014.

  1. LongTimeListener

    LongTimeListener Well-Known Member

    You're thinking of internships as you knew them decades ago. That isn't what they are now.

    Now there's a whole "intern economy" that is keeping the unemployment rate high as companies have turned formerly paying jobs into unpaid internships. This has the main effect of cutting payroll but the added effect of favoring the rich, who can subsidize their children's career opportunities in a way that poor and middle-class people can't. As but one small example, Sheryl Sandberg's LeanIn Foundation posted a want ad for an unpaid intern last year. This is the foundation dedicated to telling women to throw themselves into their work and to be more assertive about pay and other equality issues. And it's run by a billionaire. The internship, though, was clearly meant for a white society girl in Manhattan who needed a resume enhancer and something to do during the week.

    There are examples of this all over the place. ProPublica supposedly has a network of reporters looking at the whole thing and is preparing a big series on how the practice has changed the workforce. It should be good reading.

    ETA: It looks like it's part of an ongoing series, and a lot of it has already been posted. OK, I have some reading to do. (We all should. It's a very interesting and alarming turn for the workforce.)

  2. Baron Scicluna

    Baron Scicluna Well-Known Member

    It depends on the internship. The small town paper I worked at had a couple of interns. They got paid minimum wage and did a variety of work, many times filling in for staffers when they were on vacation. One kid worked a couple of summers, at minimum wage. Halfway through college, he could say he had six months of newspaper experience already.

    The Gannett place I worked at would give college credit. They would take interns and have them take phone results for a couple of weeks to see if they could take the info and accurately write the briefs. If they could, they might go on assignment with a reporter once or twice and write a sidebar on a high school kid. From there, they might go out and cover some games themselves, write a feature or two and help out with the All-Star and season preview stuff.

    If they couldn't work well with the phones, they stayed there,because if they couldn't hack that, we sure couldn't trust them with anything else.

    It was fair in that they did get experience, yet, they also did their share of grunt work, which, I suppose, they could have been paid for.
  3. ^^ Thanks for sharing - that's a good read
  4. SCEditor

    SCEditor Active Member

    I'm not arguing the merits of paid/unpaid internship. At my last job, we had paid interns. We had some great ones (one of them recently landed the statehouse beat for one of the largest metros in the state). We had some terrible ones (one is a history teacher).

    This is what I'm saying: Because of recent litigation, unpaid internships are disappearing. Newspaper companies are eliminating them completely because of potential litigation. I find that disappointing because even an unpaid internship has real benefits to a college student.

    I'm not a corporate executive or a big-city publisher. I'm the editor of a 15K daily newspaper. I have told 5-10 college kids I can't offer them any work during the summer for them to gain experience. Several of them have begged me to hire them and they'd work for free. I can't. My hands are tied.

    Those kids are at a disadvantage now, because when I hire a staff writer, I look for real-world experience. Fewer internships for college kids means they're at a disadvantage against the few who land paid internships.
  5. KJIM

    KJIM Well-Known Member

    The State department has them, and they're coveted by would-be participants. No shortage of applicants.
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