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Why are unpaid internships legal?

Discussion in 'Journalism topics only' started by IllMil, Feb 18, 2010.

  1. IllMil

    IllMil Active Member

    So, I'm 22, recent grad, and I made the decision toward the end of school that I was going to stay away from newspapers, despite the fact I majored in journalism and all my experience was freelancing at papers and managing the one at school. I just didn't like the pay or the market, or the schedule or the hours, etc...

    Anyway, I got lucky, was hired as a temp (sometimes they call me an intern, I don't really know, but whatever) at Northwestern Mutual. I'm doing similar stuff to what I did for papers, feature-type stories for corporate communications. Obviously it's a different spin, but you get the point. I get $16 an hour, but not quite 40 hours, so it's not really reliable employment and I'm still looking elsewhere.

    A bunch of my friends are interns now, whether still in school or just out, and most of them are unpaid. I don't understand why this is even allowed. Some of them have to even use their own software or computer for work. So they aren't given resources, or money, but are expected to produce material to benefit the company/paper. Why is this legal? Why is it illegal to work in a factory for less than minimum wage, but you are allowed to screw recent grads by giving them NOTHING. Why isn't there some labor group protesting this? It's literally going on everywhere, I'm not just talking about newspapers.

    I feel like when you find a "paid" internship it's some kind of golden ticket, as if you should be expected to not be paid for your work. And I think that's absolutely ridiculous. These companies are using your productivity and occupying hours, days and weeks of your LIFE, and they allowed to do it without ANY sacrifice on their part.

    And how many better qualified candidates do the companies lose because they simply can't afford to have mommy and daddy pay for everything while they work for free?
  2. Shaggy

    Shaggy Guest

    I can't vouch for recent grads because there's no way I would've ever done an unpaid internship after I graduated from college. To me, the "pay to learn" process was over the day I got my degree.

    While in school, I did an unpaid and got 3 credit hours for it and an addition to the resume. I worked about 15 hours a week. It was worth it to me.
  3. WriteThinking

    WriteThinking Well-Known Member

    Most unpaid internships are done for class credit/units.

    But even if they're not, it happens, and newspapers do it because...well, because they can.

    Prospective journalists need and want the clips and experience. Have to have them, in fact, and it's really that simple.

    By the way, the gig you have actually sounds incredibly good. I would run with it, and do everything you can to take it as far as you can, both where you're at now, and if you go elsewhere, which your current position seems very likely to help you do.

    My advice to you would be to stick to that, not newspapers. My advice to your friends would be to get into a position like yours, not newspapers.
  4. Shaggy

    Shaggy Guest

    Agree. That's the type of job that newspaper guys are looking for now.
  5. Shoeless Joe

    Shoeless Joe Active Member

    A simple guess is that if someone agrees to do it, then it's legal. If a company says "you can have this gig, but we aren't going to pay you" then you can say no.
  6. IllMil

    IllMil Active Member

    Fair enough - maybe I'm wrong, but I feel like this is a new practice. My dad, who graduated from school in early 70s, told me he never even heard of this type of stuff for post-grads. At some point, it became OK and accepted for companies to do this.
  7. PCLoadLetter

    PCLoadLetter Well-Known Member

    I'm no lawyer, but in most cases I believe post-grad unpaid internships are illegal.

    I worked close to 40 hours a week for nine months and got a whopping 3 credits, but at least I was getting something in return.

    My shop has an absolute rule: interns must be in school and receiving credit.
  8. IllMil

    IllMil Active Member

    I don't think they're illegal. Before NML I worked at an advertising agency, post-grad, unpaid. I got hired only weeks later, so it wasn't that bad. But I have lots of friends doing unpaid post-grad stuff. I think it comes back to what someone said earlier. You agree to it, then I guess it's no different from volunteering.
  9. TwoGloves

    TwoGloves Well-Known Member

    Because nobody held a gun to your head and forced you to accept the internship?
  10. WriteThinking

    WriteThinking Well-Known Member

    One of my first experiences in this business was an unpaid/no-credit stint at a smallish area newspaper that was the only paper in its city.

    I don't remember how long I did that -- yes, it was some time ago -- but it was for a substantial length of time, maybe a year or 15 months, or so. I remember I even worked a graveyard-shift job at an AM/PM mini-market just so I could work for the paper during regular hours and still have some money.

    At the time, I was glad to do it, and I enjoyed it. And, although I got nothing in the way of money then, that paper eventually gave me my first paying journalism job.

    So, the connections, the relationships that I'd built up during the unpaid stint, combined with the good work that I did and the fact that they liked me, did eventually pay off. I think that's what most people to do unpaid internships hope for.

    It's a little naive, maybe, but really, very normal, too.
  11. Starman

    Starman Well-Known Member

    "Citizen" "Journalists." ::) ::)
  12. SixToe

    SixToe Active Member


    If they offer, and you agree, then you accept the terms.
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