NY Times offers unpaid internships after reporting on their questionable legality

The New York Times
After Times staff tweeted about about the upcoming deadline for its unpaid social media internship, Pamela Drew responded, “Shame on NYTimes & every deep pocket corporation looking for UNPAID interns, experience shouldn’t be free labor.” Justin Kiggins asked, “Didn’t the NYT have a piece on ethics of unpaid internships?” and linked to an April 2010 story.

That story describes concerns about the rising number of unpaid internships in the U.S., some of which may be illegal uses of free labor. Most of the examples involve students who ended up doing low-end work that contributed little, if anything, to their education. That doesn’t seem to be the case with the Times internships. However, federal regulations also state that an employer “derives no immediate advantage” from the work of unpaid trainees; it’s hard to see how the Times and other news outlets don’t gain something from interns’ stories and tweets.

Times Social Media Editor Liz Heron responded to criticism: “The student gets credit for taking a class, which counts toward graduation, and it’s only a few hours a week.” A few descriptions for Times internships, including its summer internship, state that they are paid; others don’t specify. “Unpaid internships, of course, are not uncommon in the news business; WYNC’s “On the Media,” for instance, is seeking applicants for one now. || Earlier: Would You Pay Five Grand to Work at Huffpo? (Forbes) || Related: The “classy” farewell letter from a laid-off Times newspaper carrier | Jill Abramson doesn’t attend the afternoon meeting where Page One decisions are finalized (New York magazine)

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  • Anonymous

    It’s great that you could afford to work for free, but plenty of students can’t. They need to work summers to foot the tuition bill–not to mention the living expenses during the internship, if they have to look outside their hometowns for internships (and many students from small towns do).

  • Anonymous

    It’s great that you could afford to work for free, but plenty of students can’t. They need to work summers to foot the tuition bill–not to mention the living expenses during the internship, if they have to look outside their hometowns for internships (and many students from small towns do).

  • Anonymous

    you must speak Vulcan to them!

  • Yoni Rubin

    “money is not the be all and end of of life, is it? later karma comes back”

    I tell that to the student loan collections agencies that keep calling me. Why wont they listen to you?

  • Yoni Rubin

    You are missing the point. Internships distort important market signals. There are no journalism jobs needed. Its over saturated. Young people are being misled into thinking the job actually exist.

    Are we next going to say that journalism graduates should take “pre-internship” unpaid positions   where they will clean the floors and bathrooms so that they can climb up the ladder to a regular unpaid internship position for 6 months to a year and then climb into paid positions? 

    The market speaks loud and clear. “No Paid Jobs Here”. We should be saying to them “look for another career”. Instead we say to them “just keep give your labor away for free, it will work out”.

  • Anonymous

    As a longtime editor and professor, I see this somewhat differently. Interns need heavy (read: expensive) supervision, direction and correction. In this kind of market, young journos are grabbing the paying assignments interns used to get, thereby forcing interns down to an even lower rung. A reasonable strategy could be to accept an unpaid p/t gig for six months to a year (while working a side job), then use that to climb into paid assignments. It works. 

  • Anonymous

    I had said i still believe unpaidships are valuable to both the student and the company. money is not the be all and end of of life, is it? later karma comes back

  • Anonymous

    I had said i still believe unpaidships are valuable to both the student and the company. money is not the be all and end of of life, is it? later karma comes back

  • Anonymous

    Mandy i think my last comment got deleted? gremlins?

  • Anonymous

    in other words, there is such a thing as KARMA, no?

  • Anonymous

    mandy, i do see your point, and i see both sides, but i still see value in unpaidships, too. Life is not always about money. Sure, the paper gets a free worker, but yes, the intern gets valuable work and life experience that can lead to future work. I often gave me time away for frree as a young lad in DC and NYC and look where it got me?  a great life in retirement in Taiwan. happy as a pig in mud. Look at both sides, now. but yes, i see your point re the distinctions….but do not entirely agree. do you see my POV too?

  • http://zombiejournalism.com/ Mandy Jenkins

    Dan, I don’t think anyone’s disputing the value of internships….we’re disputing UNPAID internships. Plenty of places still pay. 

  • Anonymous

    internships are useful and serve a purpose. don’t throw the baby out with the bath water, although the points here are valid. still, internships are useful for both the newspaper and the student……there are two sides to this issue…..both are right!

  • http://zombiejournalism.com/ Mandy Jenkins

    Unpaid internships benefit wealthier students over those putting themselves through college, I have no doubt. I was once turned down for a major internship because the selection editor said she worried I couldn’t afford to give them enough time and still work to be able to afford the NYC rent for three months. In hindsight, I’m glad she saved me from myself. I’d rather be debt-free, anyway. 

  • http://twitter.com/rolloromig Rollo Romig

    It’s worse than unpaid. Often the students are actually paying to work the internships. As the Times itself says, the students get course credit for the internships, and in most cases they have to pay tuition for those credits.

  • http://twitter.com/rolloromig Rollo Romig

    It’s worse than unpaid. Often the students are actually paying to work the internships. As the Times itself says, the students get course credit for the internships, and in most cases they have to pay tuition for those credits.

  • Anonymous

    Sadly, these are the norm at most major news outlets. They should at least offer some kind of stipend.

  • Anonymous

    It’s ridiculous they can’t pay them $10 an hour. They don’t have to pay benefits, so it is a piddling expense

  • Anonymous

    sounds like slavery to me, and that was outlawed long ago in this country….. 

  • Anonymous

    The Times is requiring the college credit, not the student. Which means the student is actually paying for the privilege of working for them.

  • Anonymous

    It’s absolutely disgraceful that large companies (don’t forget the ad agencies and media companies that do the same thing) do not pay college students; especially in a very expensive location such as NYC.  Your average 20-year-old student has been making $8 an hour in the dorm cafeteria while also piling on student loans and they want him or her to travel to NYC, pay very high rent plus daily transportation plus food just for the opportunity to do the grunt work that nobody else wants to do at said company in hopes of maybe getting a job.

    Every company I’ve worked for has paid interns rather well for their service, because we want them to have a great experience and come back.  Plus it’s the right thing to do.

  • Anonymous

    It’s absolutely disgraceful that large companies (don’t forget the ad agencies and media companies that do the same thing) do not pay college students; especially in a very expensive location such as NYC.  Your average 20-year-old student has been making $8 an hour in the dorm cafeteria while also piling on student loans and they want him or her to travel to NYC, pay very high rent plus daily transportation plus food just for the opportunity to do the grunt work that nobody else wants to do at said company in hopes of maybe getting a job.

    Every company I’ve worked for has paid interns rather well for their service, because we want them to have a great experience and come back.  Plus it’s the right thing to do.

  • Anonymous

    if having unpaid interns are illegal as some say, then it appears a whole lot of companies — chiefly newspaper companies — are breaking the law.

    of course, in this instance, if the new york times cannot afford to pay a handful of interns the minimum wage, well, it is in worse financial condition than previouslhy revealed. exactly how much do the times’  bean counters say this will save? further, having a personnel policy such as this strips the times of whatever moral authority it thought it had to criticize others on many topics related to people’s pay.

  • http://twitter.com/GPackwood Gary Packwood

     I absolutely agree.

    Volunteer at your local not-for-profit organization if you want to work for free.
    ::
    GP

  • http://www.facebook.com/dayvideorockbirth David DesRoches

    It’s an unpaid internship for people seeking college credit. From the NYT: “Student must receive course credit for the internship and must produce proof of such credit.”

    I could see the hypocrisy if they were hiring interns who were out of work journalists looking for a foot in the door, but that’s not the case. Whether the entire system of internships is ridiculous/corrupt is another story, and a more important one.

    Let’s be honest, any organization is going to benefit from an intern, but the degree of benefit is totally subjective — what’s an “immediate advantage” at one organization might be the bare minimum at another.

    I’d appreciate you dig at it and find the more substantial story, which is the internship system itself. WWE would be a good place to start. Ask them about their camera operators.

  • http://twitter.com/teruterubouzu Amy

    I don’t like unpaid internships because they end up making it so certain fields are more likely to be dominated by the wealthy. A lot of students cannot afford to pay tuition and work unpaid. It leaves those internships open to the kids who have parents who support them.

  • Yoni Rubin

    These unpaid internships are illegal and people need to start talking to lawyers about getting paid minimum wage for their work. If no one takes a stand, these illegal unpaid internships will never end.