Progressive newscast Democracy Now! has updated the language it uses to describe its internship program, reflecting an apparent decision to start paying its interns.
As I reported last year in a piece for Vice, the show, hosted by Amy Goodman, used to pay interns $15 a day, but then made it so interns had to work at least two months unpaid, in New York City, before being eligible for that stipend; at the same time, Goodman doubled her salary and the program moved to an expensive new studio in Manhattan.
The new language suggests things have changed for the better:
Democracy Now! internships are paid, 20 hour per week, temporary work placements to help students, people early in their careers and career changers to gain entry-level skills and experience in the fields of outreach, social media, education, fundraising, translation and archiving in a non-profit setting.
I asked Democracy Now! what exactly they are paying these temporary workers in a non-profit setting; I’ll let you know if I hear back. Assuming, though, that “internships are paid” means something other than “$15 a day after two months,” Democracy Now! would be the third news organization now to have altered its internship program since my article was published last December.
The first to change was Mother Jones, which announced on the day my article ran that it was going to give its “fellows” a $500 a month raise, though its spokesperson claimed it was planning to do so all along and it wasn’t at all shamed into doing it – nuh-uh, no way. A couple months later, The American Prospect quietly changed its own program so that interns who receive college credit would no longer be denied the $200 a week stipend available to other interns, a fact I discovered after reading a strikingly familiar piece in the Prospect on how unpaid internships act as a socio-economic filter favoring the white middle class at the expense of those too poor to work for free.
It should nonetheless be noted that neither Mother Jones nor The American Prospect pay the legal minimum wage, while Democracy Now!’s ambiguous language and lack of interest in responding to inquiries makes me doubt that they do either, so while things have changed, that’s not to say things are now good.And that’s a shame because all these organizations have the money to do better, and espouse politics that might make you think they’d try harder to do so, but choose instead to mirror the society they critique and generously reimburse those at the top while exploiting those on the bottom.
Update: The New Republic now pays some of its interns (however, “Part-time internships used for course credit are not paid.”). Previously, when I asked the magazine — owned by a Facebook millionaire — why it didn’t pay, its response was to edit its internship description to remove the word “unpaid.” When I asked if that reflected a change in policy, they said no. I like this last change better.