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Alterman Has An Intern?
The Nation, the magazine crying out for the poor and disenfranchised, apparently sees to it only the rich and enfranchised, who don't need a summer job making at least minimum wage, can get a leg up in journalism.

I saw this link on Romenesko to a piece in The Nation about what a hard time Eric Alterman had getting a New York Sun subscription. Yeah, whatever. Here's the bit that got me:

Between January 1 and Memorial Day, I not only hassled the circulation people myself; so did my intern, Mike, many times over five months.


A guy this successful...

Termed "the most honest and incisive media critic writing today" in the National Catholic Reporter, and author of "the smartest and funniest political journal out there," in the San Francisco Chronicle, Eric Alterman is Professor of English and Journalism at Brooklyn College of the City University of New York, the "Liberal Media" columnist for The Nation, senior fellow and "Altercation" weblogger for Media Matters for America, (formerly at, a senior fellow at the Center for American Progress in Washington, DC, where he writes and edits the "Think Again" column, as well as the World Policy Institute at New School University in New York. He is also a history consultant to HBO Films. Alterman is the author of the national bestsellers, What Liberal Media? The Truth About Bias and the News (2003, 2004), and The Book on Bush: How George W. (Mis)leads America (with Mark Green, 2004). His newest book is When Presidents Lie: A History of Official Deception and its Consequences, (2004, 2005). Sound & Fury: The Making of the Punditocracy (1992, 2000), won the 1992 George Orwell Award and It Ain't No Sin to be Glad You're Alive: The Promise of Bruce Springsteen (1999, 2001), won the 1999 Stephen Crane Literary Award. Alterman is also the author of Who Speaks for America? Why Democracy Matters in Foreign Policy (1998). A frequent lecturer and contributor to virtually every significant national publication in the US and many in Europe, in recent years, he has also been a columnist for: Worth, Rolling Stone, Mother Jones, and The Sunday Express (London). A former adjunct professor of journalism at NYU and Columbia, Alterman received his B.A. in History and Government from Cornell, his M.A. in International Relations from Yale, and his Ph.D. in US History from Stanford. He lives with his family in Manhattan, where he is at work on a history of postwar American liberalism.

As I was saying...a guy this successful has a kid working for him for free?

No...sorry...that's not quite right. I checked. If this kid is a Nation intern, he makes $150 a week...for working 10 a.m. to 6 p.m., five days a week...which comes to...a little over $3.75 an hour.

And, oh goody, scam of the century, he may be able pay to get college credit for making that $3.75 an hour, too! (Hope ya don't go to GW, kid!)

Here's a little Nation internships job description:

To gain editorial experience interns check facts, conduct research and evaluate manuscripts. On the publishing side interns assist advertising, circulation and promotion staff with day-to-day business, and help create and carry out developmental and research projects for the magazine and the Institute. Intern duties also include filing, photocopying, running errands and other routine office work.

Well, doesn't that sound rewarding!

And okay, sure, at The Nation there is this, too:

Educational seminars are another important part of the program in New York. Authors, politicians, journalists and activists regularly come by our offices to provide insight on their work and world affairs. Recent guests have included Calvin Trillin, Joan Didion, Patricia Williams, Nation Institute fellow Jonathan Schell, and United Nations Under-Secretary-General for Communications Shashi Tharoor. Nation and Nation Institute staff members also hold seminars on editorial and publishing skills.

I love Joan Didion as much as the next girl, but if I tell the cashier at Ralph's that I read Slouching Towards Bethlehem 46 times, I still don't think she'll let me out with a rib-eye, no charge.

But, okay, to be fair, let's see how my capitalist piggy pals compare in screwing the little workers:

Reason magazine is accepting applications for the 2007 Burton C. Gray Memorial Internship.

The intern works 10 weeks during the summer in either our Washington, D.C. or Los Angeles offices, and receives a stipend of $2,000, plus up to $400 in travel expenses. Housing is provided by Reason.

The job includes reporting and writing for the print and online versions of Reason, helping with research, proofreading, and other tasks. Previous interns have gone on to work at such places as The Wall Street Journal, Forbes, ABC News, and Reason itself.

Hmm, more money ($5/hr.), housing, travel bucks, and it sounds like you actually might learn a thing or two right on the job (besides how to replace the toner in the copier, and how Mr. Alterman likes his coffee) and get some good clips, to boot.

Once again, it becomes clear: Socialism just doesn't pay.

Posted by aalkon at June 1, 2007 11:58 AM


I've found that jarring about one of my left-wing indulgences, Harpers Monthly, which will run ads for their underpaid internships next to articles deploying the exploitation of various capitalists.

Posted by: doombuggy at June 1, 2007 6:34 AM

My stepdad gave me a subscription to The Nation a couple of years ago for my birthday. I know he gave this gift out of love, so I held my tongue in telling him what I really thought about that publication.

I cannot **stand** The Nation. I really gave it a try, but I did not like the writing style of the articles: I felt like I was getting bashed over the head with grinding propaganda. It just seems to be one continuous, ranting opinion section, with no hard news. This approach does not work on me. I see it as the equivalent of someone screaming in my ear to see his/her way.

Don't call me a neo-con or a Bushie simply because I dislike one liberal publication. I prefer to read my news delivered in a relatively plain, straightforward manner, and then I can make my own judgements. I read the Opinions section, but I must have my own informed opinion in order to full understand what the editors, contributors, and letter writers are talking about. Opinions are useful and valuable, but are not primary news sources.

I suppose The Nation can't be compared to newspapers like the New York Times. But I love the Times. More than that, I adore NPR. These organizations of course have their leanings, but they aren't presented to the reader so heavyhandedly.

And the second thing that completely annoyed me about The Nation: I was inundated with loads of junk mail. Everybody from Amnesty International to Senator Kennedy to Naral sent me junk mail. Some of the organizations I'm sure are honest, quality non-profs, but no unsolicited mail for me, thanks. I'm very happy my subscription expired.

Posted by: Wendy at June 1, 2007 7:07 AM

I just don't understand people like Alterman. I hire very smart people and pay them as well as I can, buy them lunch, give them gas money and bonuses (when I do a magazine piece), and try to help them develop in the way they want to go (usually as writers). I'll read their writing and In turn, my assistants (except when I fuck up in hiring) have a lot of integrity when they do their job.

Posted by: Amy Alkon at June 1, 2007 8:17 AM

I'm with you, Wendy. Most of the writing in the The Nation makes me cringe.

Posted by: Lena at June 1, 2007 8:32 AM

Slackers, both of them.
Where I work we pay interns $18 per hour and require 20 hours per week during the school year.

Posted by: Greg at June 1, 2007 8:48 AM

> I love Joan Didion as much
> as the next girl,

Youdo? 'Splain.

Maybe it's a girl thing.

I've never ready a word of her but just the squibbs on the Amazon page are enough to make my flesh crawl:

"In her portraits of people, Didion is not out to expose but to understand, and she shows us actors and millionaires, doomed brides and naive acid-trippers, left wing ideologues and snobs of the Hawaiian aristocracy in a way that makes them neither villainous nor glamorous, but alive and botched and often mournfully beautiful . . ."

Gross out! It's like all of David Halberstam's mannerisms transferred to the world of fiction. Why?

> they aren't presented to the
> reader so heavyhandedly.

That's insane. Take it back.

Posted by: Crid at June 1, 2007 8:57 AM

Take what back? My statements about the NY Times and NPR? Like the ranters at The Nation and, I have my right to my perceptions and opinions as well.

Posted by: Wendy at June 1, 2007 9:13 AM

I made about $11 an hour as an intern at NIH for 4 months. The first few weeks, I spent trying not to get lost by writing everything down and memorizing physical landmarks. Talk about a freaking huge facility. Personally, I hated the red tape and the underlining politics of the place. The creepy part was walking through the animal testing rooms.

Posted by: Joe at June 1, 2007 9:37 AM

NO! You have no right to your perceptions! Your opinions must be withdrawn!

Seriously, measured by volume of output and inflexibility, there are no heavier hands in media than the NYT and NPR. The Nation may be as pompous, but they have a much smaller audience. (And you can spend many hours trying to figure out how much of NPR's budget happens through taxes, but it will be a slog. "A lot" is a good guess.)

Also, remember this:

Posted by: Crid at June 1, 2007 9:52 AM

I think 99.99% of internships are a scam.

In the mid 70s, I worked for McDonalds. McDonalds was able to pay me below minimum wage for the first 160 hours, because they were teaching me a trade. That program was eventually stopped by Congress, but somehow fancy/shmancy internships cropped up which apparently allow The Nation, et. al., to pay low wages forever. I am not sure of the difference between McDonalds teaching me to flip burgers and sweep the parking lot and various internships that teach kids how to make coffee and beg for subscriptions for others.

It's bad enough that they are stealing from the interns, but that is not the worst aspect of it.

The worst aspect is that because of the low wages, not everyone can afford to become an intern. So internships and the opportunities that open once you've been an intern go to people whose families could afford to subsidize the interns. So practically speaking internships are not available to all based on merit, and internships make for impressive resumes and nice connections.

Similarly, many colleges now expect successful applicants to have used their summers on internships or study abroad programs, which again is just another bullshit way of using something apart from merit to distinguish the haves from the have nots.

As noted, not all internships are bullshit low wage programs. In college in the early 80s, I worked for Honeywell as an intern. They paid me $15 per hour and after a year, I basically had the exact same job requirements as an entry level engineer.

Posted by: jerry at June 1, 2007 9:53 AM

Crid, I have to go hear about prairie vole sex so I can't say as much as I'd like about Didion, but check out the Didion book I mentioned above, and read the essay, "On Self-Respect." Also loved "A Year Of Magical Thinking." You can't judge the lady by the Amazon squibs!

Posted by: Amy Alkon at June 1, 2007 10:29 AM

I'm a Didion fan too, but much of her early work seems based on the following outline: "I came, I saw, I felt uncomfortable, I went back to my hotel room to drink scotch and write."

You'd like some of her early potshots at the NYC intelligentsia, Crid! Check out "I Can't Get That Monster Out of My Mind" in Slouching Toward Bethlehem. There's also some good snickering in that book about Hollywood actors dabbling in "cultural issues." Girlfriend could WRITE!

Joe -- Which institute/center at the NIH? I have an R03 pending at NIDA right now. The project officer said they're so broke that NIMH might have to fund it instead.

Posted by: Lena at June 1, 2007 10:42 AM

At least my simple act of pledging to NPR didn't result in a mess of (wasted) paper crying for me to sign such and such a petition to stop the insanity now and burn so-and-so in effigy, for the love of God, we are doomed please send money now.

Ugh, I lost every iota of potential respect for The Nation when it sold my information to other organizations.

NPR's free (well, not including the money spent to get the radio, and the car that houses the radio, but these days if one is truly desperate, one can purchase a super cheap radio for under $10). It publicizes all kinds of stories that I would never see or hear anywhere else (e.g., Sound Bites--a bit frivolous but harmless fun; This American Life--you gotta love the story about the lesbian woman who underwent a sex change to become a heterosexual man and had dramatic reactions to his testosterone treatments; and of course the venerable All Things Considered). Shoot, even David Brooks will come on there every once in a while. I guess so NPR can say, "See? We're unbiased. We feature this dude who defends Bush to the very death."

And if the larger point implied in your post is that very few control popular news media, then I'd have to agree with you. The public does need small indie pubs to keep things in perspective.

But for me, The Nation ain't it!

Posted by: Wendy at June 1, 2007 10:48 AM

It's not just the Nation. Check out this ad for a political rag that is definitively not socialist:

National Review Online is looking for "spring term" interns. If you're a conservative, hard-working college student who wants to lend your time and talents to NRO as an unpaid intern, e-mail with a cover letter explaining why you'd make the ideal NRO intern, resume, and any relevant supporting material.

No pay at all, folks. At the freakin' National Review.

Internships have always been about learning some stuff and, more importantly, making contacts with people you want in your network. Anything you get on top of that is gravy.

Posted by: justin case at June 1, 2007 10:52 AM

Which institute/center at the NIH? I have an R03 pending at NIDA right now. The project officer said they're so broke that NIMH might have to fund it instead.

Getting NIH/NIMH funding has become a tremendous pain in the ass. DARPA's got loot, though, if you can figure out how to make the case that your research might have military applications.

Posted by: justin case at June 1, 2007 10:58 AM

Socialism just doesn't pay.

Doesn't pay whom? It pays pretty well to those who are in power. It pays pretty well to those cronies to those who are in power. It doesn't pay the workers, the peasants, the massses, the fools who believe in their "leaders".

Posted by: ic at June 1, 2007 11:06 AM

A dash of Dogpiling will reveal an event involving ACORN being sued for paying sub-minimum to their voter registration and canvassing folks. Of course the pet project there is the Living Wage. Read the actual arguments from ACORN and they are quite, quite good. I'm not sure if they prevailed but of course these arguments on policy grounds; the greater economic bang for the buck, would have obviated even the existing minimum wage laws, much less the wacky aspirations of ACORN for municipalities, and then states, and finally the nation, across this land of ours. I recall a similar imbroglio involving carpenters unions in Philadelphia attempting to get around union requirements in their own plumbing contracting. Simple fact is, these people do not really believe the socialist tripe they peddle. Only a moron would.

Posted by: megapotamus at June 1, 2007 11:08 AM

I don't think DARPA would go for it, but I just sent a small grant LOI to RWJ's SAPRP. Keep fingers crossed that they request a full proposal (which, by the way, is READY TO GO!)

Posted by: Lena at June 1, 2007 11:10 AM

What specifically do you want to study?

Lena, drugs kill.

PS- Amy got Insta-lanched , and the server never blink. Props to the operations dept.

Posted by: Crid at June 1, 2007 11:16 AM

I don't think DARPA would go for it, but I just sent a small grant LOI to RWJ's SAPRP. Keep fingers crossed that they request a full proposal (which, by the way, is READY TO GO!)

Posted by: Lena at June 1, 2007 11:22 AM

Sorry for the double post up there.

I've got a few things in the cooker, Crid. The thing for RWJ is about assessment of opioid detox patients. My dope fiend brothas and sistas!

Posted by: Lena at June 1, 2007 11:28 AM

No way! Are you suggesting an arrogrant little Leftie twerp who dwells every moment in the soilings of his own limitless self-regard might possibly be hypocritical about the little people? Shocking!!

And what is the point of his article? That the Sun might pad it's circulation figures? Or is he just cheesed off that someone as great as His Own Great Self might not be getting served at the level he's come to expect?

The article is filled with numerous little tidbits of Leftie Gospel that come from the Land of Make Believe. I love this one. "Murdoch's technique of blending editorials and news coverage in the same story."

Oh that's MURDOCH'S technique? Oh yeah, the Left has never, EVER done that! What, the Nation possibly blend the truth with its own dank hallucinations? Never! Much less the NY Times that can't even get spin off its sports pages.

And this howler. "Countless conservative propaganda factories are supported in America by literally billions in ideological investment."

Yeah, and the Left is supported by countless dimes from starving school children? Uh, ever hear of Soros? Fact is, the Left is entirely the playground of effete billionaires these days. The Right has always had a wider financial base coming largely from many smaller donors. Back in the day, Alterman's long-lost-soul-brothers in the Kremlin used to fund guys like Alterman to the tune of countless millions (still one of the great untold stories in America). And in fact they still do, through other routes.

The Left is, was and always will be about power, power, power. Power in the hands of the annointed, and better watch it because when they take over the apostates go up against the wall.

Posted by: peterike at June 1, 2007 11:38 AM

Peterike, hyperboleing is a fun sport!

Posted by: justin case at June 1, 2007 11:44 AM

A fine post, Amy. If it opens a can of worms, so much the better. Free the worms!

Posted by: Curtis at June 1, 2007 12:18 PM


The National Cancer Institute. NIH is always broke, but they find the funding somehow for major renovations for the various facilities. Well the NCI never had problems with money, because cancer is sexy to the medical-research establishment.

My time at the NCI/NIH, convinced me to spend most of time working in the private sector.

Good luck with your R03 small grant too.

Posted by: Joe at June 1, 2007 12:23 PM

If someone voluntarily chooses to work for $3.75 / hour (or for free, for that matter), and that is their own choice, what's wrong with that? Presumably, the intern wouldn't do it if they didn't perceive some benefit.

For what it's worth, judicial internships working for federal judges are almost uniformly unpaid (though some judicial interns get money through a judicial fellowship).

Admittedly, though, Alterman is being hypocritical by decrying low wages one hand and offering low wages with the other.

Posted by: Gerad at June 1, 2007 12:46 PM

It's rough, alright. Just for comparison, here are a couple of other job descriptions:

"Young man under 18 wanted. Must have expert riding skills and facing possible death each day. Orphans preferred. Wage $25 a week".

-Pony Express Ad 1860

"We know your talent is rare and that is why our compensation plan acknowledge that. In return we expect your full commitment to do whatever it takes to bring in our project on time and on budget".

-Software Company ad 1996

Posted by: GPE at June 1, 2007 12:58 PM

Compare and contrast the editorial stance of these fine publications as regards the minimum wage.

I bet you will find, as is typical of liberals, that what they preach is often not what they practice.

It's legalized slavery ... pure and simple

Posted by: compareandcontrast at June 1, 2007 12:59 PM

Power to the worms!

Posted by: Curtis at June 1, 2007 12:59 PM

I've always smiled at the snot-nosed attitude of people who believed that the 'on the job experience' of interns or beginners justified their practice in mot paying them much or not paying them at all. I've written for publications thay paid peanuts because peanuts was all they could afford, but I refused to work for publications so high-falutin' as to think my byline appering on their hallowed pages was payment enough. Stuff it.

Posted by: JW at June 1, 2007 1:10 PM

If someone voluntarily chooses to work for $3.75 / hour (or for free, for that matter), and that is their own choice, what's wrong with that?

You don't get the irony of The Nation, with all they stand for, having what's essentially a rich-kids-only enterprise? And the capitalists, who are evil in the eyes of those who write for the Nation, actually paying better and giving their interns better opportunities than the lefties?

Posted by: Amy Alkon at June 1, 2007 1:30 PM

And the capitalists, who are evil in the eyes of those who write for the Nation, actually paying better and giving their interns better opportunities than the lefties?

You might have my previous comment about the (non)wages of NRO interns. I don't think this is a left/right issue. If I were guessing, it's the point made above by JW - places like the Nation and National Review think so much of themselves that they don't feel it necessary to pay. They're probably correct about this, too; I doubt if they have any shortage of applicants. If you're a young person looking to become a political journalist, it's probably even a good deal in the long run. Internships aren't jobs, they're investments in your future career. For a lefty, the contacts made from slaving away at the Nation would probably be worth it; the same would be true at National Review for righties. The people who need money right now will go elsewhere.

Posted by: justin case at June 1, 2007 1:44 PM

I met a few TNR interns were paid very low wages and including their new staff writers too.

Posted by: Joe at June 1, 2007 2:31 PM

'Socialist' yet ! Where's the break, Amy ? I don't think there are many of that stripe in the U.S.A. There are only two parties and big business is more generous to one than the other. Try Teedledum and Tweedledee.

Posted by: opit at June 1, 2007 2:41 PM

The Nation has a pretty socialist bent. Reason has a capitalist one.

And sure, people can choose to work for free or not. But, as for those champions of the poor at The Nation, you'd think they'd pay better. The Nation writes about "a moral minimum wage" here:

In January, when Bush is sworn in for a second term, the array of people and groups who worked to elect John Kerry (unions, environmentalists, community-organizing networks, civil rights groups, disaffected millionaires and religious organizations) should announce a nationwide moral crusade to raise the national minimum wage to the official poverty level--$9.50 an hour--which translates to $19,000 a year.

Clearly, they talk out one side of their mouths and pay out the other (that would be the side very little cash can squeeze through).

Posted by: Amy Alkon at June 1, 2007 2:52 PM

Finding a paying internship is incredibly frustrating; ultimately I actually paid for my Dept. of State internship experience (about $1800 for assigned housing for 11 weeks, $1500 in tuition to my home institution, $1200 in tuition to the internship agency, plus the cost of living in Arlington and commuting daily to the Mall.) On the other hand, I got free food from the Australian and Chinese embassies (one time each), and accidentally walked right past the Secretary of State's office (I was looking for a particular Undersecretary,) which was pretty cool. Maybe not $6000+ of cool, but when you're 19 and it's all "loans you don't have to repay till six months after graduation!!" anyway, you have different priorities. The Nation might not be living up to its own ideals, but it's doing the standard thing as far as internships are concerned. Heck, they're actually paying -- basically no one in DC does that.

Incidentally, it only cost about $1400 more to do my internship than it would have to live on campus and attend classes that term. And that was 8 years ago -- the agency still charges about the same amount, and rent is only a little higher because they've moved down the quality levels a notch or three for the assigned housing, but my university charges more than double the tuition, and nearly double the housing costs, than it did at the time. It's arguably a better deal to go on an internship than to stay on campus.

Posted by: Sarah at June 1, 2007 2:59 PM

A smart company would offer internships that pay well enough so even poor kids can go for them. The Nation and these companies that pay nothing pricing themselves out of the market as far as many of those kids go. It isn't a case of "Oh, if you want it, you'll earn the money for it." College is extraordinarily expensive these days, and kids who pay their own way are often already stretched beyond thin. To make $3.75/hr, and then have to rent an apartment and pay to fly to the city is out of the question for many kids. (FYI, I lived in GW's dorms when I was an intern at UPI, but I could only afford a month's internship, as I had to work the balance of the summer to pay for that month's food, travel, and living expenses. I'm lucky they let me do it that way.)

Posted by: Amy Alkon at June 1, 2007 3:16 PM

That's much to the point, Amy, if not the very point itself.

Are powerful worms sort of in control of smaller ones? Seemingly offering a lot for what is recognizable as so little upon paying for lunch?

Again, free the worms! Power to the worms!

Of course I'm referring to the little ones, canned up as they are. The big ones must fend for themselves.

Posted by: Curtis at June 1, 2007 4:02 PM

Amy, I get the irony. Just another reason for me to disparage The Nation.

justin case, I think I agree with you that the non-/low wage doesn't boil down to liberal or conservative idealogies.

I'm wondering if these indentured servitudes in journalism aren't just indicative of the lowered importance our culture has placed on literature and reading in general (relatively speaking, and present company is excluded--this is a blog after all, and a thoughtful one at that, where commentators contribute thoughtful comments in kind).

An intern where I work (not gonna say where exactly, but think big and blue and three capitalized letters) would be compensated enough to pay rent, eat well, live comfortably, and save a little money for the coming semester when she returns to school. In case you didn't get my hint, my company is all about technology. The higher dollar value employers place on job candidates in technical fields says a lot about our dependency and preoccupation with technology.

I mean, technology's changed our reading habits, and perhaps even rewired our information processing circuitry. We go from live chat window to blog to free episode of Desperate Housewives, or maybe there's a stream of talk radio on in the background. I think less and less people devote the time and effort to read a long, carefully written article/essay/column/whatever, much less possess the critical thinking skills to understand and digest it.

These are just my random musings based on my own life experiences. Yeah, I'm a software engineer now, and my degree is a B.A. in English Literature. I guess I have a penchant for wanting to pay my student loans back and also pay the mortgage and bills.

To sum up:

public class Test {
public static void main(String[] args) {
System.out.println("Being an underpaid liberal arts major sucks. Why can't I be Maureen Dowd?");

Posted by: Wendy at June 1, 2007 4:18 PM

justin case, I think I agree with you that the non-/low wage doesn't boil down to liberal or conservative idealogies.

I don't disagree with that at all. Again, it's just when the particular publication is forever marching for "a living wage" and all that while not paying one to its own employees.

Posted by: Amy Alkon at June 1, 2007 4:30 PM

"I don't disagree with that at all. Again, it's just when the particular publication is forever marching for "a living wage" and all that while not paying one to its own employees."


Posted by: Curtis at June 1, 2007 4:33 PM

The company I work for has the same high value for our interns in the bio-tech field, Wendy.

Posted by: Joe at June 1, 2007 4:55 PM

At a certain point, internship brings to mind good old cartoons of a donkey following a carrot dangled just before him ... by the driver's fishing pole.

Posted by: Curtis at June 1, 2007 5:37 PM

"I'm wondering if these indentured servitudes in journalism aren't just indicative of the lowered importance our culture has placed on literature and reading in general..."

I don't think so, Wendy.

II think it's still - just - the glam of the scribbling profession that lures 'em.

Amy is quite right to blame the bigger outfits for willingly exploiting the willingly exploited but the latter make it so easy.

You feel you can't afford not to get a foot in the door - even if you can't pay for shoes.

In the UK, the old print unions once just about prevented no-pay internships (though it never stopped nepotism and cronyism) but even that safety net has virtually gone.

Posted by: Jody Tresidder at June 1, 2007 5:54 PM

I don't disagree with that at all. Again, it's just when the particular publication is forever marching for "a living wage" and all that while not paying one to its own employees.

This is the key criticism. But I don't think most organizations consider an intern an "employee" deserving of minimum wage. In their minds, the intern is being done a favor by getting a foot in the door, and if they throw him a pittance, well, he should be thankful.

With regard to the internship at the Nation, I think there may also be some implicit us and them thinking that goes on. People who write for super-liberal publications like that write about exploiting the poor and uneducated and the like, but there's an implicit assumption that those people needed protection are some other group than the writer (gay people, immigrants, etc.) - i.e., not the people who work for a sophisticated liberal magazine. (It's this stuff that makes the old orthodox liberal thinking seem so damned condescending to people, too.). The thinking might be, the intern doesn't need protection, he's one of us.

But I still think it's much more my first point. In their minds, the benefit to the intern by being given a foot in the door is more than enough to make up a few extra dollars an hour.

Posted by: justin case at June 1, 2007 6:02 PM

Okay, but because you can pay somebody shitty wages...should you? And forget the "is that a nice thing to do?" question - and just consider the kind of applicants you get if you do pay shitty wages. Sure, maybe you get adequate little serfs for the summer -- but do you get the best people in your door or do you exclude some people who might be very good but not so rich?

Posted by: Amy Alkon at June 1, 2007 7:18 PM

justin case, does the donkey ever get to gnaw or chew on the carrot? Will he derive likely benefits?

How obscure is the scenario? I'll grant that may play a part.

Generally, I think internship is more a scam than anything, however.

Posted by: Curtis at June 1, 2007 8:44 PM

And I'm like, guys...

How mush is intern labor worth? Not a whole hell of a lot. In television at least, an internship gets you physical presence around people you might or might not want to work for someday. A good intern is one who can operate both the photocopier and the coffeepot. A typical one isn't good enough for that. A great one will have a job their in a few years, but would probably have had one anyway, because he/she is bright and ambitious and ready to work like a dog.

Minimum wage for such things is ridiculous. "Safety nets" for kids who aren't even out of school yet? Hie thee to France and see what happens.

Posted by: _Crid at June 1, 2007 10:36 PM

Wendy, you're pledging to NPR? OMG. NPR is rolling in Joan Kroc's dough. When you pledge to NPR all you're doing is using your hard earned money to make Bill Moyers richer than he ever thought he could be.

Posted by: AYY at June 1, 2007 11:03 PM

How mush is intern labor worth?

In the engineering fields, they are paid very well, and generally do the same work as entry level employees.

As I said, in the early 80s, Honeywell was paying me $15 per hour. (And I got double and triple time too!)

I think I was worth it, and some of my projects then are still protecting this country!

I think intern labor is some of the best labor you can have. The kids are smart, fresh, and very happy to be paid $10-$20 per hour. They will work crazy hours. They have just been introduced to the most recent theories. They aren't "burdened" with little league, soccer practice, getting their kids to school, parent teacher conferences.

And you get a fantastic interview process where if they are good, you can groom them and encourage them to join your company. And finally, when you find a good intern, you can often find a good professor or program and another good set of interns behind them.

You can even get the professor and his students to do free or inexpensive research for you.

That's not just for engineering either.

If you aren't such an NPR hater, you might have learned how HBO is paying USC (or UCLA?) students to produce and create shows for HBO for damn near nothing but course credit. Why? Cause of what I just said, the kids are smart and fresh and produce better stuff than many of their wise and experienced writers.

Posted by: jerry at June 2, 2007 12:30 AM

I would venture Reason interns are worth quite a bit.

Posted by: Amy Alkon at June 2, 2007 4:12 AM

Word. IJS the word "intern" describes a range of responsibilities and opportunities, and we can't assume all of them deserve financial support, either from the setting where the work is happening or from taxpayers generally (which is how "safety nets" tend to get funded)

Posted by: _crid at June 2, 2007 5:54 AM

But, AYY, I get the tote bag as a thank you gift!

Public radio/public TV tote bags are the ultimate status symbols--not the Benz, not the McMansion, not the boob job. :)

Posted by: Wendy at June 2, 2007 8:10 AM

Young adults and their cluelessness/ambivalence about what they really want to do are taken advantage of. Of course I see the mutual benefits in internships, to both employer and intern--assuming that the intern takes it seriously and uses it as an opportunity to learn and establish connections.

But think of how the Peace Corps would be short on volunteers without young people. While I'm sure part of a young Peace Corps volunteer's reason to serve is because of a genuine desire to help the disadvantaged, I'm also sure that lots don't know exactly what to do after graduating college--and the Peace Corps defers the possibility of Cubicleville.

And where would credit card companies be without college students signing up eagerly for credit cards and then the mountain of debt they accumulate (books are expensive but booze, beer, and clothes add up, too)? Most kids fresh out of high school don't know s**t about how to live on their own, much less manage money. I think credit card companies should be banned from having booths and tables from college campuses.

And then there's student loans...

Posted by: Wendy at June 2, 2007 8:26 AM

Oh Wendy, you preach it sistah.

Just got back from buying a car. Let's just say I'm verrrry fortunate that my mom was willing to cosign for me (and I am old enough that she really shouldn't have to) because my credit is for shit. Why oh why do they not teach money management to incoming college freshman? Or outgoing high school seniors for that matter? I'm gonna be digging myself out of this hole (that I put myself in) for years thanks to ignorance about the seriousness of credit rating.

Posted by: Elle at June 2, 2007 6:28 PM

Stop yer sobbin' Elle. Money management isn't rocket science. "Get a Financial Life" by Beth Kobliner is a good place to start your self-directed course of study. I learned much more about building wealth from that witty little book than I did from any elective courses in accounting or finance.

Posted by: Lena at June 2, 2007 9:13 PM

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