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Last week, fashion followers, college students, job seekers and members of the media let out a collective gasp when publishing house Condé Nast—home to such lofty titles as Vogue, Allure, Glamour, Vanity Fair, GQ and The New Yorker—announced that it was doing away with its internship program. The move came after two former interns filed lawsuits against the company, alleging that they were paid below minimum wage while toiling away in 2009 for W and The New Yorker.
WWD (which is part of Condé Nast) broke the story last Wednesday and has racked up 165 comments on its site regarding the change. Opinions are heated and mixed, with many bemoaning the impact on their career opportunities. "Honestly, those entry-level jobs are not going away. If you think about all the work that has to be done at a fashion magazine that is now probably being done by interns—if unpaid interns aren't doing the work, somebody has to do the work," says Chandra Turner, the founder and president of Ed2010, a website devoted to helping young people land their dream jobs at magazines and websites across the country. "That means that [whoever doing the work] will be paid. And that could be really good news!"
"Right now, there are so many unpaid internships that in my rough calculations, there are 100 unpaid internships to one paying job (and I think that's actually conservative)," she continues. "That is setting people up for failure, really. If you have 100 interns working at any given magazine and there's only one job opening for an entry-level, full-time, paid position at that magazine—which is a very likely scenario—that means that 99 people don't get jobs. So maybe it's not a bad thing to reduce the number of unpaid opportunities."
Said one fashion editor at Hearst to Fashionista when the news broke, "It's far too much work for the one or two fashion assistants in the closet. The company would probably need to hire one employee or freelancer for every two interns that it lost."
"I really hope that every magazine can have paid internships," says Turner. "That would be the way to go. Fewer, paid internships. You would be able to spend more time with the intern, in the way that you are supposed to with interns, and be able to monitor them and mentor them and make it a more valuable experience if you have two as opposed to 10, 20, even 30. I've heard of places that have as many as 30 interns. In the long term, this may be good for everyone. Everybody has multiple internships [these days]. The same big fashion magazines pop up over and over again on peoples' resumes. It's not as prestigious as it used to be, it doesn't have the same cachet. If you're one of a hundred, it takes away the value of the experience. And [the magazine's staff] might not even remember who you are."
· Ed2010 [Official Site]
· Condé Nast Discontinuing Internship Program [WWD]
· Condé Nast Killing Its Internship Program in 2014 [Racked]