How Condé Nast Should Have Fixed The Internship Program


By: Frances Bridges, Contributor

 11/08/2013 @ 12:24AM 

 Two weeks ago Condé Nastconfirmed it was ending its internship program.

They declined to answer questions or provide details behind the decision. Condé Nast owns 25 publications, including VogueThe New Yorker, and GQ.

Lauren Ballinger and Matthew Leib, former interns at W magazineand The New Yorker respectively, are suing the publishing house. They filed suits in June in Federal District Court in Manhattan, claiming the publications violated federal and state labor laws. Leib says The New Yorkerpaid him a $300-$500 stipend for the two summer he worked there, which calculates far below minimum wage. Ballinger says she was paid $12 a day for shifts that last 12 hours or more at the fashion magazine. Interns normally receive a small stipend and school credit for their work.  For those interested in more information about why Condé Nast may have ended its internship program, read on here.

 The response to the shutdown has been mixed.

The New York Times and The Wall Street Journalhave both quoted former interns of the publishing house expressing their disappointment, saying the experience was, “valuable,” “helped open doors,” in the industry.

The main argument against unpaid/underpaid internships mentioned in The New York Times andThe Wall Street Journal is that they are only available to privileged young people, whose parents are able to foot the bill for their stay. If in New York City, as Condé Nast is, the cost can be extraordinary. A former intern told The New York Times that if she didn’t have her parent’s financial support, she “absolutely” could not have accepted the internship.

Condé Nast is inarguably one of the most prestigious internships in the magazine publishing industry, with some of the greatest artists and journalists working there. But with little pay and long hours, the favoritism of privileged candidates needed to be corrected. Though I think it is wrong that this bias existed, it is a shame that the program had to shut down completely, when a compromise could have been reached.

As a former editorial intern (not at Condé Nast) who didn’t receive any compensation for my work, I can say that the experience I received was invaluable. I worked on every aspect of the editorial process; from copyediting, researching, fact checking to writing everything from photo captions to long, feature length stories. The difference between my position and that of an intern at Condé Nast (outside the difference between little compensation and no compensation), was I only worked eight hours a day, maximum nine. I was not working 10 hour or plus shifts. This allowed me to have a second job as a hostess and bartender, so I could support myself while I was an intern. No intern at Condé Nast would have been able to hold a second job with the hours the internship demanded, and that was the flaw with the program.

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