Monday, July 21, 2008

NYT Woe-Is-Me: Magazine Interns Denied Summer Fridays, Real News

The New York Times hates puppies.

That's because the Fashion & Style section made a poor editorial decision to run a story that covered (rather, created) news that New York City's highfalutin fashion and women's magazine interns can't bear to stay home from the Hamptons and work a full Friday (rather than get "Summer Fridays" and depart at 2 p.m.).

Are you kidding me?

On July 20, 2008, in an article titled, "At Magazine Offices, Another Summer of Jitney No-Shows," by former WSJ staffer Lauren Lipton, the twenty-something interns of Glamour, Vogue, Interview, Harper's Bazaar -- hell, virtually every in-demand magazine by Conde Nast, Hearst, Time Inc., HFMUS and Meredith -- lament staying and working on Friday while everyone else in the entire city hops on the Jitney to the Hamptons.

"Woe!" a rail-thin intern shouts as her fingers get sticky paste all over them as she puts the final touches on "the book" for a certain top editor. "Lament!" another shouts, as she gets tangled in a webbed Dolce and Gabbana concoction, tripping in her last-season Louboutins and accidentally stretching the stitches on her Chanel skirt. Wherever shall they eat dinner, with everyone having left for the Hamptons?

God, it must be terrible to work at a magazine.

OK, now let's dial down the sarcasm and approach this moderately. The heart of this article -- which I urge you to read -- is that ad pages are down in a tough economy, and the editorial side (and their workdays) is much more at the mercy of the business and advertising side. Which is a legitimate concern, since that inadvertently dictates the quality of the product as a whole (and the quality-of-life factor inside the offices).

My problem with the article, sadly, is three-fold: 1) somehow, the (unpaid or very low-paid) interns are given the spotlight; 2) the interns' work lives are compared to that of the editors-in-chief of the publications; and 3) we, as readers, are supposed to feel sad that no one gets an early Friday.

Well, I've got news for you, New York Times: the whole thing is ridiculous. Why?

First (and foremost): We should not be sad that someone who has a coveted position at a popular publication can't get Summer Fridays when a increasing amount of people -- including some very savvy professionals who want to work in publishing -- can't find work, even in the world's publishing mecca, New York City. Much less all the poor people who couldn't leave the city if they tried.

Second: The real focus of this article should be the staffers with salaries, who can't make any more if they stay until midnight every night (which they already do near close). If the low-paid interns are complaining about extra hours, they ought to consider the extra money they can contribute to their rent, the most expensive in the U.S. (and I'd know -Ed.). If they're unpaid interns, perhaps the article should be focusing on how unpaid interns are being taken advantage of, working endless hours with no job promises in sight. The editors-in-chief might have to start taking page proofs with them on the airplane, but most of their interns can't even afford to board the plane in the first place.

Third: If any intern, anywhere, plans on spending their weekends in the Hamptons, they should not be considered "interns" by any stretch of the imagination. And if I'm then supposed to feel sorry that they can't leave until 5 (okay, 6 for magazines) on Friday, trust me, these tear ducts are dry.

Even the artwork for the story is misleading (shown above). No one works in darkness like that at a magazine -- there are flourescent lights lining the office!

To boot, the article signs off with a weak disclaimer -- "Well, sure, people who work at magazines get perks, like chocolate" -- and then drives the ridiculous stake home with a quote from a Conde Nast intern who supposedly envies other interns. Which is ridiculous, because no matter how much someone grows frustrated working at 4 Times Square, they will never, ever deny that the spot is prestigious and coveted.

"Those of us in the magazine world are here past dinner, and then by the time we leave are far too tired to go out drinking. I guess it’s a good thing. It’s an honor that they take us seriously enough to work us this hard."

No, honey -- it's not really a negative that you're too tired to get trashed, and trust me, it's a gamble whether your editors take you "seriously" enough to work you that hard. Many do just because they can.

The whole thing is repulsive. And how do I know?

Because I've been there.

I have much respect and reverence for journalism and the magazine business. I find it thrilling work. But let's call a spade a spade. This article doesn't tell me anything necessary or even interesting as a reader. My time and money appear to be wasted.

Which means somewhere, a puppy is going without dinner.


Nicole said...

When I interned at a high fashion magazine leaving at 7pm was awesome, usually we get out of the office at 9pm, the latest was 10:30pm

acds said...


Alejandra said...

these girls are clearly unaware of the thing called "crisis" the world of journalism is experiencing

Suzanne said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Suzanne said...

No need to get so excited over a bit of fluff, and if you are, it's done its job most admirably!
If you've all worked in journalism (or even "journalism") you're certainly familiar with the concept of "filler," no?