I recently read a piece in the Guardian, citing the disparity between those who can afford to take unpaid journalism internships from those who have the backgrounds and should be covering particular pieces of news. It appears that people who can afford to take unpaid journalism gigs don't come from the very backgrounds needed to cover journalism Thanks to Ernest for making me aware of the article.
I’ve always believed that internships should be paid. Whether it’s an hourly rate or a stipend, I disagree with any organization’s HR methods for not compensating people who are delivering some sort of work output. I feel so strongly about this because I had internships going back to my freshman year in college.
I spent one summer organizing articles, images and random things for an automotive magazine.
I spent another summer doing nothing but sorting and organizing old car crash tests. I actually spent that summer listening to the radio while I worked...this resulted in me being picked to host the show one morning.
That was followed by the summer where I sat listening to media reps or scrubbed the content of a TV show before advertising ran.
I spent half a school year learning about HTML code, updating websites and doing a bunch of odds and ends for a small agency.
I spent an entire school year fetching paper, booking appointments, conducting research and filling in excel spreadsheets at another agency.
There is absolutely no way I could have taken these internships on with zero pay. I needed money for school books, clothes, bills and other necessities. I didn’t care about the hourly rate. I felt respected and valued for my time and willingness to learn.
There is the argument that internships can go towards class credit. Ok, I get it, but we all know that these internships result in cheap labor/output for companies. In return, these students should be compensated in some fashion for their time.
I’ve learned that the exchange of currency between company and intern creates a different type of expectation. There is a level of service, respect and work output that is different than a non paid model.
Every internship I had made me feel ‘grown up’. I was getting paid for a fair day at work. I knew that I wasn’t on the same playing field as my collective bosses. I did, however, feel pressure to deliver. I wanted to earn that money. I wanted them to know I belonged there and was going to every assignment to its fullest - even if it was replenishing the paper clips.