Or You Could Just Pay People SEVEN FREAKING DOLLARS

The false choice between paid internships and providing opportunity for students:

Mr. Leib alleged that the New Yorker paid him well below minimum wage—in stipends of $300 to $500—for each of the two summers he had worked at the prestigious weekly, where he reviewed and proofread articles. Ms. Ballinger alleged in the complaint that she was paid $12 a day for shifts of 12 hours or more at the fashion magazine.

In court documents, Condé Nast, whose magazines also include Vanity Fair and Vogue, denied that it violated labor laws.

Condé Nast declined to explain or provide details of its decision to end its internship program, which was reported Wednesday by Women’s Wear Daily, one of its own publications. The program has provided many aspiring writers, editors and designers a coveted entree to the magazine world.

I had a number of internships in college, both paid and unpaid. This was when tuition and housing costs were significantly lower, so it was easier to rationalize the benefits (especially in a field where on-the-ground experience is everything) of working full-time for an unpaid job over the summer, and easier to save during the year for that eventuality. My last paid internship paid approximately what my job does now, which is either a commentary on the 90s economy or my negotiating skills or both.

When these lawsuits first hit, and whenever stories about unpaid internships go around, the conversation turns into a clusterfuck of “well, if you make us pay the interns we just won’t have interns anymore, in which case no one will learn anything, it will all be anarchy and nobody will ever get a job in journalism again.” This dish is usually served with a side order of “my unpaid internship was worth its weight in gold” versus “I couldn’t take an unpaid internship because I’m fucking broke, asshole” versus “well, too bad, you should have lucked out by being born to rich parents like me” versus “fuck all rich kids anyway” and so on.

Which is exactly the fight media company owners would like us to have, so that we are not wondering why fashion magazines that routinely pimp out $1,400 sweaters cannot pony up a measly $7.25 an hour, like is this really that hard? I get everybody’s got budgets but constraints on what to spend where are entirely self-determined, so let’s not pretend they’re powerless to fix this problem. They just don’t want to, and they’re smart enough to know the fight won’t be about them in the end.

It’s easier to resent privileged kids who can afford to take advantage of a unfair system, than it is to take on the people who designed that system in the first place and then huff off when challenged all, “FINE THEN NOBODY GETS TO WORK HERE AT ALL.”

A.

4 thoughts on “Or You Could Just Pay People SEVEN FREAKING DOLLARS

  1. gratuitous says:

    If the internship program makes business sense only if interns are slaves, then yes, maybe the program should end. But it’s a bad business decision, because as you point out, today’s interns are the farm team for tomorrow’s publication. If you don’t grow talent today, you don’t have someone to move in/up when the Old Guard finally shuffles off the stage.
    If the magazine is worth persevering (a doubtful proposition for some publications), then paying the junior varsity a living wage for their three months is a good investment both in the present and down the line.

  2. bill says:

    Yet another reason, as if we needed one, why trickle-down economics is horseshit. People who control great wealth are not altruistic. They do not see it as their duty to let their wealth flow downwards to those less fortunate, as the theory implies, even when “altruism” might be substituted for by “good sense.”

  3. mothra says:

    Something tells me that Anna Wintour could probably be paid a smidge less in order to pay an intern some kind of wage.

  4. Kaleberg says:

    What makes anyone think these business executives give a hoot as to whether their institution survives? They are reavers. They’ll take what they can get, and devil take the hindmost.

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