Who Pays Interns? Few Media Firms Do, But This Tumblr Helps You Find Which Ones That Will

Source: International Business Times

on September 05 2013 5:05 PM


Four years of Ivy League school. Three unpaid internships in the country’s most expensive city to live in. Peter Sterne, 22, just hopes the next journalism outlet to publish his words will pay for them.

Befuddled in his search for a paying internship, the Columbia College senior last May started Who Pays Interns? – a Tumblr filled with scoops on which magazines and websites compensate. Recently, the site has seen an uptick in submissions.

That’s no surprise. When two former interns who worked on the film “Black Swan” sued Fox Searchlight in September 2011, most people – especially in Hollywood, where pricey dues are unduly expected to be paid – scoffed with the usual, they’ll-never-work-in-this-town-again disdain.

But in recent months, the movement against unpaid internships has picked up steam.

Condé Nast was sued in June for paying interns less than $1 per hour and decided in August to stop paying altogether.

And the Fair Pay Campaign, which promises to fight to end unpaid internships – from the bottom-wrung media companies to the White House – has been gathering more signatures.

“If you want to work at the New Yorker and not get paid, that’s fine,” Sterne told International Business Times. “But I think it’s important for people who are doing that to know they could work at Time magazine and make $15 an hour.”

Sterne spoke to IBTimes on Thursday afternoon. Some responses in the interview have been condensed.

IBT: You were most recently working an unpaid internship at the New York Observer. Is that where the idea for this blog came from?

Sterne: I finished the unpaid internship at the Observer at the beginning of August. The idea for the site – I had this at the beginning of the summer – it was after I learned I’d be doing an unpaid internship. The summer before, I worked at the Columbia Journalism Review unpaid. Before that, I worked at the National Memo, a liberal politics site, unpaid. The reason I started up the site is that I was inspired by Who Pays Writers? It’s run by Manjula Martin. That is essentially a site for listing how much publications pay for freelance work, based on anonymous submissions. I realized something similar could work for unpaid internships. I personally had done unpaid internships, but as I was searching I didn’t really know which ones would pay, or how much they would pay. I decided to start Who Pays Interns? as a resource for people looking for paid internships.

IBT: How have your former employers – maybe that’s not the right word, given the topic at hand – reacted to the site?

Sterne: I don’t know if they’ve seen it. I know that my immediate editor, I told her I’m doing this. They said, that’s fine, just do it on your own time and don’t associate it with the Observer. It’s not an observer website. It’s entirely separate. It’s a personal blog essentially.

IBT: You’ve posted mostly media jobs. Will you include more internships from outside the news media?

Sterne: I’ve kind of gone back and forth on that. The site, I wanted it to have a certain focus. I decided to start with media internships. They also tend to be unpaid in many cases, or they offer a small stipend. I know people who’ve interned at media companies, I’ve worked media companies, and I’ve done a few unpaid internships in media, so that’s really the focus now. Also, I try to stick to larger brands. There are tons and tons of small websites, small publications that hire people as interns and don’t really pay too much. I don’t think it’s a good use of my time to research every small publication. I’m trying to focus on Condé Nast, Hearst, Time Inc., the New York Times, cable networks and major websites and blogs. But I will take any submissions.

IBT: Do you think young journalists are more sympathetic to unpaid internships, given the financial struggles in the industry?

Sterne: In a sense, yes. People in media certainly feel that they need to do internships, and in many cases unpaid internships just to get their foot in the door. Obviously, if they can afford it. I think that many interns are sympathetic, especially when you’re looking at startups and other companies where there’s not a lot of money. But there is some resentment, especially if you don’t get hired. You’re sort of wasting your time.

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