In Wake of Lawsuits, Condé Nast to Discontinue Internships in 2014

October 24, 2013

Several months after two former interns sued Condé Nast with claims they were paid less than $1/hour for their internships at W and The New Yorker, the media company announced that they would discontinue their internship program in 2014. The news from Condé Nast comes as a shock to many. Following the suits, the company revamped their internship program, implemented stricter guidelines on how many hours interns could work, offered a semester stipend and pledged that students would be doing job-related tasks, not personal errands for employees. But ultimately the company decided that their internship program should end.

Condé Nast is not the only publishing company embroiled in lawsuits from former interns. Hearst is also currently involved in a pending suit from an intern who worked at Harper’s Bazaar, who claimed the magazine violated minimum wage and overtime laws.

What does this mean for Condé Nast and for students? According to some reports, several former and current interns said they thought eliminating the internship program was too extreme and now, budding journalists would not have the valuable access in their formative career life.

Condé Nast’s publications include Vogue, Vanity Fair, The New Yorker, Glamour, Lucky, Allure, GQ and Teen Vogue. Those publications’ offices may be slowed down without interns. Though seemingly trivial to some, the jobs of the interns--which include trafficking, sample handling, assisting with appointments, meeting prep and assisting on photo shoots and many more -- are critical. Plus, students who benefitted from the wages they earned (more importantly, the experience they gained), are now missing out on the opportunity to assist at Condé Nast.

Some see this change as a positive– perhaps Condé Nast will now hire more entry level employees for these tasks, which is great for job seekers and even better for their wallets. And it’s possible that other companies, both in the media industry and outside of it, may follow Condé Nast’s lead.

We ask our Hot Sheet Panel:

  • Do you think more companies will follow Condé Nast’s lead?
  • What does this mean for the industry and students?

This news is disheartening on many fronts.  Internships are -- or at least they should be -- an invaluable way for students to not only gain real-life work experience and build a resume, but also a way to "test the career waters."  As a undergraduate majoring in communications, my internship at a daily news service taught me so much, including that I was better suited for a different work pace.  That insight was helpful in early job hunts (and ultimate career satisfaction) and led me to land a great job at a prestigious monthly magazine.   I received no financial compensation for my internship, but I considered the what I learned and the networking opportunities to be priceless.

That said, I do fear that other companies will follow Conde Nast's lead as 1) the herd mentality is often the safer, less risky route to take and 2) other publishing concerns will no doubt look to esteemed Conde Nast as an industry leader worth emulating.  Lastly, to anyone who thinks this may result in more new hires, I suspect the opposite -- that current low-level employees will just have more on their plates than ever before. 

Linda Levi
Managing Director, LSL Strategic Communications
NYWICI Foundation Board Member