Tom Spurgeon's Web site of comics news, reviews, interviews and commentary

February 18, 2014

Not Comics: Two Wider Journalism Stories Worth Noting

There were two stories linked through Editor & Publisher that looked to me like they might have some relationship to various issues facing comics. This article about the elimination of unpaid internships by Conde Nast in light of lawsuits, combined with an editor's perspective on his publication's internship program, seems promising to me. I don't have significant problems with limited internships tied to school credit or the idea that some limited-exposure internships might even be unpaid for prospective professionals. I don't believe in free labor for things that generate value in all the ways we recognize value, but I realize there's some space to argue for exposing people to a workplace and some of the elements of paid work in a limited way without paying them, the way that kids might volunteer to be a page for their state representative as a way to open them up to how politics work. Too many of our internships are basically full-staff positions with a really advantageous (to the company) pay rate. Clearly. It's ludicrous more often than not. I feel there are such severe opportunities for exploitation in any such program, exploitation that is rarely considered in a lot of circumstances, that I'm grateful for the level of introspection involved with both halves of this story and with the increased level of self-analysis we're seeing displayed more generally. One thing that doesn't get mentioned in articles like this one is that unpaid internships make less sense when there are fewer paid positions of value to be attained through such programs.

This article about tying revenue into digital money-making, on the other hand, is fairly terrifying. For one thing, it already happens; there's a reason why the popular sports columnist is paid more than the person doing the sports agate. Tying pay more explicitly to performance is just an excuse for publications to not pay anything for the elements of value that can't be quantified and would force writers to chase revenue in the short term that could be brutally damaging to the publication and its readership over the long term. It's also funny to me that you never get this measure applied to the people that hold the kinds of positions that do the counting, or to an ownership group. In general, there's a fine line between a commercial restriction on journalism that forces publications to serve a readership in order to gain some measure of profitability and suggesting that maximizing profitability serves anything other than an abstract bottom line.
posted 1:45 am PST | Permalink

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