On behalf of all of the journalism interns who know what it’s like to transcribe two-hour interviews, make frequent Starbucks runs and rush to meet tight deadlines, let’s hope The New York Times will reconsider its decision not to pay you. It seems that the New York Times offers both paid and unpaid intern positions, but the basis by which this is determined is questionable.
Aaron Edwards, a senior journalism major at Ithaca College, received his letter of acceptance for the summer internship program last week. He will receive weekly pay of $900. This is the same amount that the E. Rosenbaum Reporting Internship pays to its lucky applicant each year. Don Hecker has run the New York Times Student Journalism Institute since 1992 and the fellows of this program receive a $400 stipend for its two-week duration. The social media, digital, design, graphic, photography and interactive internships at the Times, however, all have no mention of compensation in their job descriptions.
January 20th marked the highly anticipated deadline for the Times social media internship. After staff tweeted a reminder about the approaching deadline, the Twitter world reacted in a frenzy, some tweeting, “Shame on NYTimes & every deep pocket corporation looking for UNPAID interns, experience shouldn’t be free labor,” and “Didn’t the NYT have a piece on ethics of unpaid internships?”
The Times did indeed report on the moral of unpaid internships in an article called “The Unpaid Intern, Legal or Not” last April. It seems they are following the same practices in which they question. Social media editor, Liz Heron, responded to the outburst by tweeting, “The student gets credit for taking a class, which counts toward graduation, and it’s only a few hours a week.”
This implies that a student pays tuition to provide free labor. How about for students who can’t afford to work for free because they have to help support their families or pay for school. Does this mean they can afford experience? Compensation should be based on ones experience and contribution to the publication, not your title.
For a low-income student who aspires to be a newspaper journalist—or any type of journalist for that matter—it is unquestionable that an internship at The New York Times would provide exceptional professional experience. It is unfortunate that they may have to pass up such an opportunity on the bases of compensation. At the least, unpaid interns should have to opportunity to receive extra training and mentorship to make up for their monetary losses. Hopefully this out cry on Twitter will encourage the Times to pay, not just a selected few, but all of its interns.