On February 1st, intern Diana Wang filed a lawsuit against the Hearst Corporation – one of the largest media companies in the country – for supposedly violating federal and state labor laws. Wang, an unpaid fashion intern at Hearst’s Harper’s Bazaar for the fall 2011 semester, reportedly worked over 55 hours per week organizing and shipping clothes and accessories for no pay.
Industry hopefuls have spoken out on how Wang’s case will affect those vying for entry-level positions, and whether or not the lawsuit will mark the end of unpaid magazine internships. (Although, we should note that many unpaid magazine internships do offer college credit instead of pay.)
Gennifer Delman, a senior journalism major at Hofstra University, who has interned at Cosmopolitan and O, The Oprah Magazine, doesn’t necessarily believe unpaid internships will become extinct. “Unpaid internships have been embedded in the fabric of our workplace environment for decades now, so it may take new or revised legislation in order to make them disappear entirely,” says Delman. The times are already changing, however. Following the Hearst lawsuit, Conde Nast, parent company ofGlamour, Vogue, and SELF, enforced a stricter internship policy, which includes a $uncategoriezed stipend, shorter office hours, and an official mentor.
Although funding transportation expenses from Hempstead to Manhattan has been difficult, Delman sees her internship experiences as invaluable. “I look at internships like an investment in your future. I’ve met so many mentors, friends, and role models this way. I’ve had a college career on and off campus and I think internships are the best way to go about it.”
But competition remains fierce within the industry. “Sometimes I get discouraged knowing how hard it is to get an internship and how much harder it will be to get a job,” says Christina Hedges, Hofstra sophomore and Bridal Guide intern. “But I know how badly I want to be a part of this industry, and it helps to push me on.”
As the editorial assistant at Parents, Maryn Liles is in charge of sifting through intern applications before forwarding them on to her superiors for consideration. Liles completed internships at Marie Claire, Town & Country, and SHAPE as an undergrad at Indiana University before landing an EA position at Parents in fall 2011.
Although Liles would prefer companies to compensate their interns, she believes paid internships will help weed out the less passionate. “If the larger, well-recognized brands begin offering paid internships, they will become even more impossible to get for the average candidate. It will certainly test their dedication for the field, but more importantly, it will test their resourcefulness,” says Liles. “Candidates will need to find new ways to stand out.”
Maggie Young, a junior at University of Kansas, has found a way to stand out among other applicants—by launching Get Fit Get Life, her very own health and fitness online magazine.
Young has recently made the move to New York to intern at Parents this semester, and will be staying on as a summer intern at Glamour. With taking online classes, running an online magazine complete with a team of writers, and interning by day, finding balance can be a challenge. “It gets hard, but it’s how the industry works,” says Young. “When you go into this industry, it’s the way it is for everyone. If you work hard, you’ll eventually get there.”
Listen to Maggie speak more about her experience as an unpaid intern and editor-in-chief of GFGL here.