Conde Nast plans to end its internship program beginning next year, Erik Maza reports in Women’s Wear Daily.
“The end of the program comes after the publisher was sued this summer by two former interns who claimed they were paid below the minimum wage during internships at W and The New Yorker,” he writes.
Those two interns may have come out better than interns in other programs, though, which don’t pay at all. Earlier this month, Kara Brandeisky reported in ProPublica that students at Northwestern University spend a mandatory amount of time working unpaid for news organizations “such as CNN Documentaries, Self and WGN Chicago.”
But instead of paying interns, employers pay Medill $1,250 for every student placed. In turn, students receive academic credit and a small stipend from the university for relocation expenses, ranging from $600 to $1,200. The most generous stipend amounts to just $2.72 an hour — far below the federal minimum wage of $7.25 an hour.
Poynter began hosting Medill students as interns earlier this year and decided to start paying them after Medill asked participating outlets to consider doing so. Taylor Thomas, Poynter’s first Medill intern, wrote earlier this month about the strains of doing her internship for free.
In June, a federal district court judge ruled that Fox Searchlight Pictures should have paid two interns who worked on the movie “Black Swan.” The benefits they received from the internship were “incidental to working in the office like any other employees and were not the result of internships intentionally structured to benefit them,” William H. Pauley III wrote.
In 2012, Tracie Powell reported for Poynter on one student’s unpaid internship, and she includes specific criteria that employers must meet to comply with the law, as well as when the opportunity is worth it and when it’s just abuse.
But not every intern out there is working for little or nothing. In June, ProPublica announced it had successfully funded a Kickstarter campaign to raise funds and hire an intern. It then launched another campaign to raise money to look into the broader internship world, which was also successfully funded. The result is a 16-week internship with publication on what that intern finds expected next summer.
On Oct. 2, ProPublica sent intern Casey McDermott out to tell intern stories for that project.
“It’s worth noting that this issue is personal for me, too,” she wrote. “I just graduated with journalism and sociology degrees from Penn State in May, and I’ve held four internships including this one. Some paid well, and others provided no more than a transportation stipend.”
You can follow McDermott along on her travels and see what she finds and who she meets on Tumblr.