Tuesday, June 06, 2006

Summing Up

I'll be on cable TV --somewhere--tomorrow morning to talk about this internship piece. Comcast cable network to be precise.
I can honestly say this is the most bloggoriffic response i've ever gotten to anything I've written. By the professional opinion-mongerers, I've been called everything from "baffling...a funhouse mirror" to "unbearably lame" to a "manure-spreading puppet" (a farm implement used in Bali?). And oh--for some reason this annoys me the most--"hot."
There's a lot of boys out there with time on their hands.
On the other hand, I am someone's hero. And someone else is "with me all the way." And someone else thinks I have "great points." Who are these analysts? Surprise! They are current unpaid interns/struggling college students.

This person thinks I stole her idea. It's a good article, but no--mine was assigned on May 7.
Anyway. I think the following comment--the last comment on this post--restates the main (strongest) point of my op-ed quite clearly and well.
I made a bunch of suggestions in the piece of a new way of thinking about internships. This was intended for people to mull over and compare with their own experience--it was far from a policy proposal, as some literal-minded DC types seem to take everything, and no, I am not an economics PhD (although I did have one econ PhD read it before I submitted it). On those terms, I guess I am proud of the whole thing, namecalling and all.

Lindsay wrote: I think we can all agree that unpaid and underpaid internships are, on the whole, regressive. Working for free is a luxury.
It is becoming increasingly common for students to take these unpaid stints, not only in public policy and alternative media, but also for more "glamorous" jobs in profitable companies. For example, internships in the entertainment industry and the established media are frequently unpaid or very poorly paid.

This isn't just a problem for students and their families. It's a larger social issue. We complain about the echo chamber and the bubble effect in the mainstream media. Unpaid and underpaid internships are increasingly important part of people's career paths in these fields. This is bad for the media and for society at large because it discourages anyone who can't afford to give away their time.

1 comment:

potent potable said...

I think what the serious comments are trying to say is this: The low- or no-paid intern situation hasn't been given attention before and it's troubling on the surface, but it's not terribly surprising.

Lindsay, who you link to in your post, said this in her blog:
"The Princeton Review suggests that the opportunities for paid internship are inversely proportional to the sexiness of the work."

I think this observation is critical but you (and Lindsay) haven't really reflected on it. You also haven't talked about the lavish internships given by many large companies.

So let's forget for a minute about rich versus poor. What does this intern situation tell us?

It tells me not to go into careers like politics or media because I won't be paid well. On the contrary, 90% of engineers and accountants are probably paid better throughout their career.

Out of these 4 careers, I think we would agree that engineering and accounting are unsexy. It's not a coincidence that there are not enough college students doing it. If there were enough qualified applicants, engineering and accounting firms would be able to pay less for comparable talent.

Today, young people have more choice about their career than at any other period in history. It's exciting but career choice is now a BIG decision that must be made carefully.

Complaining about rich kids being able to absorb the cost of a non-paying internship is missing the point. Instead, high school and college students from middle- and low-class families should be directing their energy at researching careers and picking a good one.