Critical thinking: Are non-paid interns being exploited?

By Nu Yang Recently, several interns filed lawsuits against media companies citing insufficient pay while working long hours. Even though most newsrooms do not pay for internships, should the experience be enough compensation or are interns being exploited? Lanie Lee Cook, 25, University of Louisiana at Lafayette Cook earned her bachelor’s degree in print journalism in December 2013, where she served as social media editor for its student-run newspaper, The Vermilion. She’s currently reporting on government meetings and education for NewsTalk 96.5 KPEL in Lafayette. When Condé Nast announced the termination of its unpaid internship program after two former interns sued, other Condé Nast interns came forward as disappointed with both corporation and plaintiff. But could this significant move by a major player lead to good news for future journalism graduates? Could an elimination of unpaid internship work lead to organizational restructuring and open more paid slots in entry-level positions? Without much protest, students accept unpaid internships as unavoidable. They invest money to earn degree credit through these opportunities, and in return, they gain knowledge and connections valuable to their future careers. Yet this unpaid sector of the U.S. workforce raises social and economic concerns. All this free work seems not only to skew the value of paid employees—especially at the entry level—but it also puts lower-income students at a competitive disadvantage. Should students have to choose between unpaid professional development and the job that keeps them afloat? Sometimes they have no choice but to keep the lights on. Some students even spend money to relocate for internships, considering more desirable positions are generally stationed in the most expensive cities in the world. But such unrestricted apprenticeship isn’t afforded to those without third-party support, whether it’s through inherited affluence or student loans. If students aren’t privileged enough for the former, should it be necessary for them to incur debt and face a daunting financial future? Or should they carry full-time jobs simultaneously, thus forsaking health, money, time and personal livelihood? To pay interns would improve quality-of-life expectations for both students and graduates while opening the pool to all hard-working candidates nationwide, regardless of their economic status. Let’s hope—with great optimism—that Condé Nast’s decision is a step toward eliminating unpaid positions. The industry and economy will benefit. Read the entire article here: http://www.editorandpublisher.com/Columns/Article/Critical-Thinking–Are-Non-Paid-Interns-Being-Exploited-2014-02-19T10-07-34

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