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

Recruitment Genius: Direct Mail Machine Operative

£13500 - £15000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This is an opportunity for an i...

Recruitment Genius: Customer Accounts Executive

£14000 - £18000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This is an opportunity for the ...

Recruitment Genius: Team Administrator / Secretary - South East

£14000 - £17000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: Full time Administrator/Secreta...

Recruitment Genius: Parts Advisor

£16500 - £18500 per annum: Recruitment Genius: One of the leading Mercedes-Ben...

Day In a Page

Read Next
 

Errors & Omissions: a duchess by any other name is just wrong

Guy Keleny
A teenage girl uses her smartphone in bed.  

Remove smartphones from the hands of under-18s and maybe they will grow up to be less dumb

Janet Street-Porter
Thousands of teenage girls enduring debilitating illnesses after routine school cancer vaccination

Health fears over school cancer jab

Shock new Freedom of Information figures show how thousands of girls have suffered serious symptoms after routine HPV injection
Fifa President Sepp Blatter warns his opponents: 'I forgive everyone, but I don't forget'

'I forgive everyone, but I don't forget'

Fifa president Sepp Blatter issues defiant warning to opponents
Extreme summer temperatures will soon cause deaths of up to 1,700 more Britons a year, says government report

Weather warning

Extreme summer temperatures will soon cause deaths of up to 1,700 more Britons a year, says government report
LSD: Speaking to volunteer users of the drug as trials get underway to see if it cures depression and addiction

High hopes for LSD

Meet the volunteer users helping to see if it cures depression and addiction
Why the cost of parenting has become so expensive

Why the cost of parenting has become so expensive

Today's pre-school child costs £35,000, according to Aviva. And that's but the tip of an iceberg, says DJ Taylor
Fifa corruption: The officials are caught in the web of US legal imperialism - where double standards don't get in the way

Caught in the web of legal imperialism

The Fifa officials ensnared by America's extraterritorial authority are only the latest examples of this fearsome power, says Rupert Cornwell
Bruce Robinson: Creator of Withnail and I on his new book about Jack the Ripper

'Jack the Ripper has accrued a heroic aura. But I'm going after the bastard'

The deaths of London prostitutes are commonly pinned on a toff in a top hat. But Bruce Robinson, creator of Withnail and I, has a new theory about the killer's identity
Simon Stephens interview: The playwright on red-blooded rehearsals, disappointing his children - and why plays are like turtles

Simon Stephens interview

The playwright on red-blooded rehearsals, disappointing his children - and why plays are like turtles
Holidaying with a bike nut: Cycling obsessive Rob Penn convinces his wife to saddle up

Holidaying with a bike nut

Cycling obsessive Rob Penn convinces his wife to saddle up
Bill Granger recipes: Our chef pays homage to South-east Asia's palate-refreshing desserts

Bill Granger's fruity Asian desserts

Our chef's refreshing desserts are a perfect ending to a spicy, soy-rich meal
Fifa presidential election: What is the best way to see off Sepp Blatter and end this farce?

Michael Calvin's Last Word

What is the best way to see off Sepp Blatter and end this farce?
Mediterranean migrant crisis: 'If Europe thinks bombing boats will stop smuggling, it will not. We will defend ourselves,' says Tripoli PM

Exclusive interview with Tripoli PM Khalifa al-Ghweil

'If Europe thinks bombing boats will stop smuggling, it will not. We will defend ourselves'
Raymond Chandler's Los Angeles: How the author foretold the Californian water crisis

Raymond Chandler's Los Angeles

How the author foretold the Californian water crisis
Chinese artist who posted funny image of President Xi Jinping facing five years in prison as authorities crackdown on dissent in the arts

Art attack

Chinese artist who posted funny image of President Xi Jinping facing five years in prison