The recent news of the Atlantic Media Company‘s decision to not only pay their current interns, but retroactively pay those who interned in their first “academy” — a six-month, full-time, unpaid internship last fall — is not only fantastic on a personal level, but on a higher level, as well.
I was one of those interns, toiling away 10-12 hour days for six months, surviving off whatever I could garner bartending in the fratastic D.C. neighborhood of Adams Morgan on weekends. Did my friends and family think I was crazy to work for free? Of course, but I loved it and relished every opportunity offered to me while I was there.
Besides, I knew going into it that I was going to struggle, but from my experience as an editor at a magazine in New York and as an intern at various magazines before that — all of which were unpaid — struggle, I’ve learned, is a part of the business of journalism. It’s a creative field, it’s competitive and because of both, I’ve found that employers have the upper hand in every way possible. (I may come off as bitter, but it’s hard to swallow two title promotions in four years with no increase in income and a boss telling you to ask your parents for money.) So my decision to take an unpaid, full-time internship was conflicting, yes, but coming from a place where I was already struggling with the amount I was being paid, it was easier to justify the work without the monetary compensation when I could solidly say I loved what I was doing.