Welcome, interns. (If you can afford it)

It’s that time of year, when hopeful interns arrive in newsrooms around the country.

I’ve been fortunate to get to work alongside some crazy-talented ones in recent years.

But there’s been a lot written lately about barriers to working in a newsroom. Many have cut their budget for interns entirely and provide no pay at all. So if you want an internship, you may have to be able to afford it, or be willing to go into debt. And we all know that what college students need most is more debt.

Here’s a really interesting commentary on that trend from David Dennis at the Guardian, called “Unpaid internships and a culture of privilege ruining journalism.”

In college, he was repeatedly told that to build his resume, he needed to work an unpaid internship in New York.

Which unless you’re rich, is like telling someone to go intern on the moon.

“And therein lies the issue with unpaid internships. The practice of asking recent graduates to spend their days working for free while paying rent and living in a city like New York is a barrier for entry to students from mid- to lower-class backgrounds.”

I don’t think journalism is really off limits to lower-income and middle-income students, although I agree you are unlikely to start your career at a fancy-pants publication unless you come from a fancy-pants background. I’m sure there are exceptions. But no matter what, it is definitely uncool to expect interns to work for free.

And here’s this story in the New York Times about interns (not in journalism) paying for jobs in China, which makes me throw up in my mouth a little bit. If that’s a trend, it’s not a good one.

– Jen

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