As part of my ongoing obsession with Slate (actually I'm not so much obsessed as too lazy to hunt out my own set of blogs and tie them into google reader), I point you, dear reader, to the following post by Timothy Noah.

So as to spare you the bother of the click-through, let me summarize: summer internships are now being sold for as much as 2,500 a pop! What a scandle! In fact there's even a web site where any old schmoe can purchase these internships.

From my experiences in the media sector, I can confidently say that this new development has probably increased equality. Whereas in the past, cushy internships were limited to the immensely wealthy and well-connected, now the wealthy, or even the upper middle class can get their foot in the door.

I know what you're thinking: you're being too cynical Gimpei, the MSM must rigorously screen their interns. They wouldn't, for example, give an internship to the daughter of the editor-in-chief's psychoanalyst, to a well-respected foreign academic's son who wants to improve his english, or to the children of fellow journalists. Actually, they do and almost exclusively.

Here's the thing:

1) Editors are lazy. What other business has half-days on fridays during the summer so that the staff can go off to their country homes?

2) The work that interns perform requires absolutely no ability. None. They could easily be replaced by monkeys.

3) From the editors perspective then: why bother going through an intensive interviewing process when you can just ask a friend if their kid needs some work sending faxes and making copies?

The problem is that although internships are a poor signal of ability, they are the only way of getting your foot in the door. In my opinion, if some middle class kid likes music enough to get his parents to drop 2,500, more power to him. Worst case he'll just be taking the place of one of Peter Travers' kids, which can only be a good thing.


  1. Anonymous on 2 February 2009 at 17:03

    I agree. But how did you get your internship to NYRB?

  2. Gimpei on 2 February 2009 at 20:39

    Connections. But mine weren't very good, so I had to put some time in doing monkey work as an intern for their book publishing imprint. After six months, by sheer luck, I managed to get the privilege of doing monkey work for the NYRB itself.

    I never really got my foot enough in the door, though to make anything of it. Some people were able to parlay their internships into better jobs, but they were normally very well connected and so probably would have gotten good jobs regardless. Yes I am bitter.