I will never forget the day I began interning at Condé Nast. It was my first real internship and I was being granted access to the beauty magazine I had coveted for years. I would be lying if I didn’t say that I had spent the weeks leading up to this day in pure preparation mode, attempting to subside my excitement and mentally ready myself for the opportunity that was about to present itself. At 9 am on a Wednesday morning, outfit pre-planned and re-planned 4 times, I walked into the sleek revolving doors of the iconic publishing house, ready to immerse myself in what I had always pictured doing.
Understanding how vital internships are to students striving for success sheds light on the controversy that has recently arisen in Condé Nast’s decision to completely terminate their internship program. Condé Nast, one of the nation’s largest publishing companies housing Vogue, GQ and Allure Magazine to name a few, announced last month that they are no longer hiring interns in response to a lawsuit frenzy that has engulfed the company. According to a New York Times article, two former interns sued Condé Nast four months ago, claiming they had been paid below minimum wage for their summer jobs at W Magazine and The New Yorker in 2009. The case, which is still in session, is one of several current lawsuits filed by low-paid and unpaid interns within the media world. Halle Donaldson, a current (and final) intern at Condé Nast Entertainment as well as a Fordham University student, speaks on the matter: “It’s too bad that such an amazing company like Condé Nast has essentially been forced to close down their entire internship program. So many potential internship opportunities and opportunities for learning will be lost. I have learned so much interning here, like how the production process operates and what ideas are chosen for their digital channels. It is a shame that other students in the future will not be given this same chance.”
Internships grant students the chance to “taste test” different jobs they suspect passion in, and are definitely something that I believe yields nothing but positive prospects. However, is it really not short of cruel to have students putting in extensive hours of work for little pay, if any? A USA Today article quoted a former intern at Glamour and senior at the University of Michigan, Rachel Rowlands, as stating: “Being an unpaid intern in New York City is incredibly hard and outrageously expensive, most college kids just can’t afford unpaid internships.”
This highlights the struggle that many students have with putting in long hours for no compensation. It’s valid to note that Condé Nast does grant interns a “stipened” pay, adding up to around $500 for a semester of work. Interns must also receive college credit in order to complete an internship with the company. During my two semesters interning at Allure, I was required to attend educational “internship seminars,” which brought in various editors and publishers from different publications within the company.As I reflect on my internship experience with Conde Nast, I see it as the time that I finally felt I was apart of something I truly loved. Working at Allure, I learned all the ins and outs of publishing, advertising and editing. I learned how to conduct myself in a professional setting and how to successfully communicate with my peers. I was able to understand what parts of the magazine industry I liked and disliked, and where I saw myself in the next few years. Every single person has job aspirations and dreams, but often struggles to actually make them tangible. This is why internships are so important: they allow a person to shape their aspirations and acquire the skills necessary to actually achieve them.
A former intern at Allure and now current employee, Lyndsey Corin, adequately sums up both sides of the debate, stating, “Now working at Condé Nast, at the same magazine I interned for, I am sad to see such a great program go. The CN internship program really opened the door for many people to get jobs and strong references when they did apply for full time positions. However, if the program could potentially put Condé Nast at risk for legal reasons, I do think that stopping it all together is the only way to ensure the “safety” of the company at large.”