Column by Allison Trebacz
Aspiring young journalists braced themselves on October 23 when multi-million dollar publication company Condé Nast announced it was discontinuing its internship program January in order to avoid more lawsuits.
Condé Nast is known for publishing magazines like Vogue, Vanity Fair and Bon Appetit, among others, and the company’s underpaid interns are voicing their hurt feelings. This should concern every aspiring journalist.
In the 1940s, the Supreme Court established a test of six items for unpaid interns that are still followed to this day.
The basis of these tests are that unpaid internships are legitimate for as long as the employer “derives no immediate advantage,”under this rule, once an intern is doing more than just learning and doing work to benefit his or her employer, the Supreme Court rules that he or she needs to be compensated for their contribution.
These tests, however, don’t address underpaid internships, which is where lawsuits come in.
Students who have the opportunity to intern at premiere companies (and anywhere, for that matter) should keep their complaining to a minimum.
The recent lawsuits that caused Conde Nast to bin their internship program were not about not getting paid, but not getting paid enough.
The field of journalism is exclusive as is, and internship opportunities are vital.
There is always something to be gained in fetching coffee and editing copy because these crappy jobs put a foot in the door of an industry that revolves around who you know.
If more publishing companies follow Condé Nast, all that’s going to be left for aspiring journalists will be forcing themselves onto editors in entirely inappropriate ways because there’s no other way to stand out.
This is problematic for aspiring journalists.
Condé Nast is cutting internships for 18 major publications that many journalism students name as their dream jobs.
This move will unfortunately level the playing field even more by voiding the top of the chain.
These aspiring journalists that should be applying for high-profile, New York internships will be applying for significantly smaller companies outside of New York just to get experience.
In retrospect, no journalist ever gets paid enough.
I believe there’s something valuable to be learned from these opportunities and complaining about a rare opportunity is low in itself.
But when these complaints affect such a wide number of aspiring journalists in such a drastic way, and void many us of our dream opportunities — it has gone too far.
The impact of Condé Nast’s decision remains unpredictable.
It is impossible to know if other publishing companies are going to follow suit, and what the implications will be.
If companies cut their internship programs, one pro is that it will most likely open up more entry-level positions.
This isn’t actually a bad thing, but causes contradiction.
In the working world to get an actual job you have to have experience.
Getting a job will only become more challenging if internships cease to exist.
Trebacz is a magazines and creative writing double major and can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org