Tuesday, September 04, 2007

Mitchel Stevens’ Guide to Journalism and Fluff

Editor's Note: The following column is part of an anonymous weekly humor column chronicling the struggle of a new, young journalist out in the working world. You may find the author's previous posts in the archives. --The Ed.

So, the other day I was relaxing at my new favorite spot to kick back and just take in life—it’s this quaint park in Midtown that should offer free wi-fi, but doesn’t, so instead of “working,” I’m working on listening to the guys next to me with duct taped hands talk about how to tap an ass—when I picked up a copy of the Washington Post.

Or, as we call it in the J-Business: WaPo. Like, Alpo, but not. Because one’s dog food and the other one belongs to the Graham dynasty.

In a rather spectacular first-person style, Heather R. Taylor’s piece Midlife Intern: Free to Follow Her Heart showcases the power of the human spirit and it shows how one must always be evolving even aft—wait, she’s how old?

Something I can’t help but running across throughout the business are unpaid internships that offer nothing more than slave labor hours and even worse benefits. Craigslist rarely offers anything that pays under their writing section. Most times—and like my 54th part-time job—they pay $.15 above minimum wage and would crack the virtual whip more than Belladonna.

The joke there is that Belladonna doesn’t do S&M. I mean, she does rough…I have totally lost this audience.

Mediabistro and J-Jobs are better and tend to be a tad more respectful of things like actually paying entry-level participants entry-level wages. But once in a blue moon, you get a position like the one I mentioned last week. I couldn’t get over that they wanted to see my High School GPA until I was re-reading the directions to their corporate overlord compound in the heart of Devil Country.

The core requirement of the job offering $16.60 an hour, twenty hours a week with heavy chance of being called in nights and weekends at a rate of no overtime?

A High School diploma or equivalent degree.

I gagged a bit on my coffee when I read that. Here was a job that was listed between advertising managers, staff reporters and copy editors—and it was meant for anyone who had a G.E.D. There’s nothing wrong with that, but still, talk about a blow to the ego.

I may as well tell the Union Square Barnes and Noble about that the next time I reapply to them and am informed I have “too much experience to work there.”

Yeah, ghost writing and editing articles in [BANKRUPT RELAUNCHED MAGAZINE] makes it impossible to scan coupons and stock Tao Lin, Miranda July and Klosterman.

In fact, isn’t that the sort of experience one needs in order to get that big chance on the Interwebs, in publishing or if your middle name is Rocket?

But let’s go back to Mrs. Taylor’s fluff. I love fluff. It tasted great as a kid, and there’s nothing better for you than colorless, sweet gook that is equal parts delicious and awful. While I’m thrilled she found her calling, which both “enriched and freed [her],” she’s still working for free.

By the end of her moving story, I can’t figure out if she’s making money or still an unpaid figure making a “living in…a fairly youth-obsessed industry.”

She shouldn’t worry. Most of us youth are ready to work unpaid for bylines, access and stories. In fact, to do what we love—write, design, draw—we’re forced to be free while haphazard Alt Weeklies tempt us with salaries and “oh, we’re sorry, could’ve sworn payables sent that out” checks.

Maybe it’s the multi-part time jobs I’m forced to work to not make enough to live comfortably. Maybe it’s the lack of communication I encounter after months of cold calls, pitch letters and watching NY 25. But please, Mrs. Taylor, do not glorify the internship when you’re clearly being exploited.

And don’t insult the intelligence, dreams and hard work of all those who came before you and will work after you.

Man, that wasn’t funny at all.



Anonymous said...

hey its tara, here is the website i was talking about where i made the extra summer cash.......... the website is here

Richard said...

Go directly to law school. Do not pass go-fer jobs.