by Kira Yoshiko Harada-Stone
Remember watching Gossip Girl and wishing you could have Blair Waldorf’s life? Well here’s one more thing (of the many) on your Blair-list that you may never be able to do: intern at W Magazine.
On October 23rd, it was announced that Condé Nast, a publication company responsible for over 20 publications such as Vogue, Teen Vogue, Vanity Fair, The New Yorker and W, would be shutting down its internship program indefinitely. This announcement came shortly after three former interns filed lawsuits against the publication company, stating that they were not paid enough for the work that they had done. These three were a part of a movement of people trying to give interns the ability to unionize. However, they ended up taking away the ability to be a Condé Nast intern entirely.
So how do those intern-hopefuls feel about the whole fiasco? Kristyn Siegart, one of the many aforementioned hopefuls, admits, “I have always dreamt of one day working for Vogue, ever since The Devil Wears Prada and The September Issue, so learning of the Condé Nast internship shutdown is disappointing to say the least.” Kristyn also recognizes what this will mean for her career endeavors, “Condé Nast includes some of the industry’s best and most credited magazines – interning for one of their publications, however grueling it may be, is an amazing opportunity that more often than not results in a job opportunity. (Besides,) nothing matches the experience of working for publications such as Vogue.”
Brennan Kilbane, a current intern at Teen Vogue, knows of the advantages he has been given that others may miss out on, “I think that because Condé Nast is such a heavy-hitter when it comes to fashion publication, it looks fantastic on my resumé to even have set foot in the lobby. Plus, the[re are] networking opportunities; people here know people.”
Not all hope has been lost for those wishing to have an entry-level job at one of these publications. Brennan tells us that, “most publications will likely hire freelancers to cover the work–young professionals not unlike interns, but paid.” This does mean however, that college students who have not yet received their degrees will have much more difficulty finding jobs at any of these publications. Another option is looking to other publication companies like Hearst and Time Inc. This does mean that the internship game will become much more competitive, only the best of the best will get them.
So the real question after all of this is, was it worth it? Did those interns filing lawsuits really want to change the world of internships, or were they just being greedy? Personally, I don’t think anyone truly wants to be an unpaid intern, but we all accept it as an important step in getting into the magazine industry. However internships aren’t always what they’re supposed to be. The justification for an unpaid internship comes from the notion that it will be a valuable educational experience, but it has become common knowledge that while you are an intern you will end up doing a lot of unpaid grunt work. While some people can just accept this as a necessary career step, others can’t afford to do so.
Many students cannot afford to devote all of their time and energy, which could otherwise be put towards a paid job, to an unpaid internship. Some have to pay tuition, help support their families, or even pay the rent. As Brennan showed us earlier, having an internship on your resume gives you advantages in the competitive industry, thus meaning that not being able to afford to have an unpaid internship puts you at a disadvantage. This sets up a class inequality in the industry. Only those who have the means from the beginning can reap the rewards in the end.
So in a way those interns filing lawsuits weren’t just trying to get their well-earned money back, they were fighting for equality in the world of internships. An internship is a shot at the big leagues, isn’t it only fair that there is a leveled playing field? Was the loss of the internship program worth it? Was this an entire failure, or was it just a small downfall in a much greater movement for change?