Dear Condé Nast, please take on interns

By Jamie Weissman on November 8, 2013

I have always been a magazine addict. But when I picked up my first copy of Teen Vogue in 2006, something clicked: I knew I had to one day be the one behind the magazine. Since then, I have had my sights set on interning at Teen Vogue and the other publications within Condé Nast in the hopes of one day living a happier version of The Devil Wears Prada. The plan was flawless. That is, until this year.

Condé Nast is a mass media company that is home to 25 publications, including Vogue, Vanity Fair and GQ. One internship with them is perhaps one of the biggest steps you can take into the magazine industry.

However, on the heels of a lawsuit filed by two former interns, Condé Nast decided to end their internship program starting in 2014. Though the media company has declined to elaborate further on their decision, it seems two former interns filed lawsuits claiming the magazines they interned for violated federal and state labor laws. Though the interns were paid stipends, they claim their paychecks were well below minimum wage and did not compensate them for the amount of hours they worked.

The surprising decision takes away hundreds of opportunities for college students to break into the competitive magazine industry and learn what it takes to thrive in the publishing world.

Unpaid internships have always been a grey area. According to the Department of Labor, an unpaid internship is supposed to meet certain criteria that ensure it is creating an educational environment for the intern. An unpaid intern is not supposed to cover responsibilities of paid employees, and in return, a paid employee is no supposed to benefit from the work of an unpaid intern. However, if the magazine will not benefit from the work an intern does, what is the point of having them there? Perhaps there is an answer to this question, perhaps there is not. Either way, unpaid interns are of great value to the company and in return the company is of great value to the intern.

I’ve seen how valuable an internship could be first hand. After interning at a local New York newspaper for a year, I was published as many times as employed writers were each week. Though I received nothing of monetary value for my services, the experience certainly benefited the publication and boosted my resume and journalistic experience to new levels.

Though I have never interned at Condé Nast, and I guess I never will, working in the magazine industry is still on my radar. I may never get the chance to see the inside of Teen Vogue or I may be a future editor-in-chief. Either way, I will continue to sit on the edge of my seat, filling out applications and hoping other media companies don’t follow suit.

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