In Unintended, But Totally Expected, Consequences: Condé Nast Eliminates Internship Program

Condé Nast, the globally renowned media publisher
that produces magazines like Glamour, The New Yorker, and
Wired, announced late last month that it
will no
longer offer
its internship program. The decision comes in
response to a lawsuit filed by two former interns, Lauren Ballinger
and Matthew Leib; in June, the interns
Condé Nast for months of backpay, alleging that the
publisher violated federal and state labor laws.

The Wall Street Journal

Mr. Leib alleged that the New Yorker paid him well below minimum
wage—in stipends of $300 to $500—for each of the two summers he had
worked at the prestigious weekly, where he reviewed and proofread
articles. Ms. Ballinger alleged in the complaint that she was paid
$12 a day for shifts of 12 hours or more at the fashion

The case is still pending, but Condé Nast’s decision has been
made. The current crop of interns will not be affected – they will
just be the program’s final participants.

The details of what Condé Nast will do moving forward are
unclear though. Will they replace the internships with more
competitive paid positions? Or will the publisher simply reshuffle
their existing workforce? The company has been silent since the

Reactions have so far been mixed. Numerous former Condé Nast
interns have lamented that the elimination will mean lost
opportunities for future students. “It’s disappointing and kind of
ridiculous that it had to come to this,” Rachel Rowlands, a senior
at the University of Michigan who interned at Glamour
this summer,
 USA Today. “I had an amazing experience at
Condé Nast, and I honestly feel bad that other college students
won’t be able to have the same experience that I did.”

Dylan Byer, a media reporter at Politico who completed
internships at The New Yorker,
the New York Times that he valued his experience
and disagrees with the lawsuits. For people to accept the terms of
an internship and then turn around and retroactively sue their
employer seems “disingenuous,” he said.

Yet another former intern told Buzzfeed that her
internship prepared her for the reality that the
print media industry doesn’t pay very well
, even for full-time

“A few years [after completing my Condé internship], I
interviewed for a job as a features assistant
at Vogue… an editor asked me what my parents
did before telling me how much money I’d make: $25,000 a year.”

Indeed, a brief perusal of Condé Nast’s average salaries shows
that Editorial Assistants
don’t even crack $30,000 per year

Even those advocating against unpaid internships expressed their
frustration and apparent surprise at the news.

Fair Pay Campaign
, a student-run organization with the rallying
cry “No-one should have their dreams denied because they can’t
afford to work for free,”

SHAME on Condé Nast for ending their internship program, instead
of paying a living wage.#payyourinterns

Likewise, the lead attorney representing Leib and Ballinger,

the Wall Street Journal:

Our goal isn’t to end internship programs. Our goal is to…make
sure they’re legal, either by paying minimum wage or making sure
they meet the criteria the Department of Labor has spelled out.

Condé Nast is the first major firm to eliminate its internship
program since the
flurry of unpaid intern lawsuits
sprung up this summer.
However, lawyers and

 are predicting that many firms may start to cut
their programs – or offer just a few paid positions instead of many
unpaid ones. So despite advocates’ desire to open doors for
struggling students, it seems the
“Great Unpaid-Intern Uprising”
 may result in employers
closing off opportunities altogether. 

from Hit & Run

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