The end of Condé Nast's internship programme is a good thing for budding journalists

It's better to have fewer of the right chances, than more of the wrong ones

Share

For Condé Nast, streams of dissatisfied interns have proven to be the lawsuits that broke the camel’s back. The magazine publishing powerhouse are reportedly binning their internship schemes as of 2014, meaning that young people desperate to get their foot in the industry’s door are faced with yet another stumbling block. But have Condé Nast actually done budding interns a favour?

This time last year, I had just started an unpaid internship at a newspaper in New York. As a weekly publication, the total staff count couldn’t have been much more than 25, yet I began my placement as the seventh in a line of penniless interns fighting over who would get to fact check articles first.

The three months I spent there were thankless, and exhausting.

But they were also incredible: a once in a lifetime chance to be surrounded by people whose work excites and inspires you, and an opportunity to test your mettle. The staff were often unforgiving, and the hours (or mine at least) were punishing, but it gave me both life and career experience that I wouldn’t want to be without. Why, then, can’t I help but think this move from Condé Nast is actually a good thing for interns?

People need industry experience, sure, but what this might force companies to do is to distinguish between work experience and internships. The former should be short-term and unpaid, for newbies trying to learn the ropes, while the latter ought to source the industry’s shiniest new recruits, paying them at least the minimum wage (or counting as course credit for their studies) for their contribution to the organisation of which they are a part. Interns can, will and do add hugely to the smooth running of so many companies, and to say that their work merits no financial recompense is just wrong.

With one prestigious scheme closing in 2014, it is true that there will be less opportunities for aspiring journalists. But in all honesty, it’s probably better that we have fewer of the right chances for young people as opposed to more of the wrong ones. Calling months of unpaid labour an industry standard only serves to make journalism a more hostile and elitist environment.

The onus is really on companies to define what it is to be an intern. While some may see it as a moniker for an overqualified lackey, others believe their temporary recruits should hold the same responsibilities of the staff - and not get paid for it. This ambiguity is what has led to the stream of lawsuits, and subsequent closing, of a major scheme, and is crying out for reform. Do organisations want someone who’s a dab hand with an overloaded tea tray, or a person who is actively going to help with the daily grind?

Much anger (on social media at least) has been expressed from the pre-intern generation towards those whose legal disagreements have led to the Condé Nast programme closure, but they aren’t the ones responsible. If anything, we should be thanking those who have stood up against the farcical workplace epidemic of underpaying and overworking its interns, and attempting to establish a system that doesn’t exploit its workers by the time the next generation begins the perilous job hunt.

React Now

Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Austen Lloyd: Employment Solicitor

£30000 - £60000 per annum + Excellent: Austen Lloyd: Employment Solicitor - Ke...

Argyll Scott International: Risk Assurance Manager

Negotiable: Argyll Scott International: Hi All, I'm currently recruiting for t...

Austen Lloyd: Clinical Negligence Solicitor

Highly Competitive Salary: Austen Lloyd: HAMPSHIRE MARKET TOWN - A highly attr...

Ashdown Group: IT Systems Analyst / Application Support Engineer (ERP / SSRS)

£23000 - £30000 per annum + pension, 25days holiday: Ashdown Group: An industr...

Day In a Page

Read Next
Bill Cosby speaks onstage at the Thurgood Marshall College Fund 25th Awards Gala on 11 November 2013 in Washington  

Bill Cosby: Isn’t it obvious why his accusers have stayed silent up until now?

Grace Dent
 

Our political landscape is not changing anywhere near as much as we assume it is

Steve Richards
In a world of Saudi bullying, right-wing Israeli ministers and the twilight of Obama, Iran is looking like a possible policeman of the Gulf

Iran is shifting from pariah to possible future policeman of the Gulf

Robert Fisk on our crisis with Iran
The young are the new poor: A third of young people pushed into poverty

The young are the new poor

Sharp increase in the number of under-25s living in poverty
Greens on the march: ‘We could be on the edge of something very big’

Greens on the march

‘We could be on the edge of something very big’
Revealed: the case against Bill Cosby - through the stories of his accusers

Revealed: the case against Bill Cosby

Through the stories of his accusers
Why are words like 'mongol' and 'mongoloid' still bandied about as insults?

The Meaning of Mongol

Why are the words 'mongol' and 'mongoloid' still bandied about as insults?
Mau Mau uprising: Kenyans still waiting for justice join class action over Britain's role in the emergency

Kenyans still waiting for justice over Mau Mau uprising

Thousands join class action over Britain's role in the emergency
Isis in Iraq: The trauma of the last six months has overwhelmed the remaining Christians in the country

The last Christians in Iraq

After 2,000 years, a community will try anything – including pretending to convert to Islam – to avoid losing everything, says Patrick Cockburn
Black Friday: Helpful discounts for Christmas shoppers, or cynical marketing by desperate retailers?

Helpful discounts for Christmas shoppers, or cynical marketing by desperate retailers?

Britain braced for Black Friday
Bill Cosby's persona goes from America's dad to date-rape drugs

From America's dad to date-rape drugs

Stories of Bill Cosby's alleged sexual assaults may have circulated widely in Hollywood, but they came as a shock to fans, says Rupert Cornwell
Clare Balding: 'Women's sport is kicking off at last'

Clare Balding: 'Women's sport is kicking off at last'

As fans flock to see England women's Wembley debut against Germany, the TV presenter on an exciting 'sea change'
Oh come, all ye multi-faithful: The Christmas jumper is in fashion, but should you wear your religion on your sleeve?

Oh come, all ye multi-faithful

The Christmas jumper is in fashion, but should you wear your religion on your sleeve?
Dr Charles Heatley: The GP off to do battle in the war against Ebola

The GP off to do battle in the war against Ebola

Dr Charles Heatley on joining the NHS volunteers' team bound for Sierra Leone
Flogging vlogging: First video bloggers conquered YouTube. Now they want us to buy their books

Flogging vlogging

First video bloggers conquered YouTube. Now they want us to buy their books
Saturday Night Live vs The Daily Show: US channels wage comedy star wars

Saturday Night Live vs The Daily Show

US channels wage comedy star wars
When is a wine made in Piedmont not a Piemonte wine? When EU rules make Italian vineyards invisible

When is a wine made in Piedmont not a Piemonte wine?

When EU rules make Italian vineyards invisible