Thursday, July 19, 2007

Walrus magazine internships unpaid while Walrus Foundation seeks new sponsorship

Several people have asked whether it was true that internships at The Walrus magazine are no longer paid. The answer is yes, they are no longer least for now.

(At one time, the 10, six-month internships (8 editorial, 2 art) were among the most generous in the Canadian industry, paying about $2,000 a month, unlike many magazines which pay a pittance or nothing at all). The entire internship program was financed by a $300,000 annual grant from the Metcalfe Foundation, which has now ended.

Here is what The Walrus's publisher, Shelley Ambrose said, in part, in response to a question Canadian Magazines asked about the situation:
Revenue from The Walrus magazine has never paid for the internship program. As you know, The Walrus is published by the charitable, non-profit Walrus Foundation. Our charitable status means we are only allowed to sell 30% of our pages to advertising. The Walrus Foundation staff (me) and the Board of Directors fundraise - through events, corporations, foundations, individuals -- to support the magazine and the foundation's other programs....including the internship program. Without sponsorship and donors, these programs have no funding.

For two years, the internship program was supported by The Metcalfe Foundation. Although the internship program did not actually fit into the mandate of The Metcalfe Foundation, it was a discretionary grant to get the program going and had a two year shelf life, which is now over. Despite yeoman efforts, The Walrus Foundation (me) and Board of Directors have not YET found a replacement sponsor for the internship program and, so, the next round of interns will be unpaid. This is no way reflects our attachment to the program, its phenomenal success, or the quality of the interns and their stellar work - it is simply a financial reality.

Am glad to see readers of your blog are interested. The more we can get the word out that The Walrus is an unusual animal in Canadian publishing and is not a purely commercial magazine, the better. After just four years and many accolades, The Walrus Foundation still has to change public perception about our mandate, what our charitable status requires and means, and the sheer cost of creating long form literary non-fiction and investigative reporting (there's a reason few magazines do it).

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Anonymous Anonymous said...

That's really sad. The paid internship was *the* thing that distinguished The Walrus from other magazines. It's sad to see they've become like all the rest, allowing rotating interns to fill in for what really should be a paid position. Tusk, tusk, indeed.

2:46 am  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

What is it with people who think that internships ought to be paid? And, please, give me a break with the the "*the* thing that distinguished" song. Lots of magazines offer paid internships -- I can count them on one hand. Art Johnson instituted the paid internship program at Canadian Business, as he seldom tires of reminding us. Paid internships are indeed great but so are unpaid ones. An unspoken fact is that This Magazine continues to exploit unpaid interns...although the magazine prefers to regard the "opportunity" as an "educational experience." And, really, can you blame it? That's what it is. Yet we demand that students pay to go to j-school. The better deal is clear, paid or not.

- The Old Fart

9:04 pm  
Blogger D. B. Scott said...

There are many varieties of internship. Sometimes people are taken on as interns who have most of the skills right out of the gate and are therefore doing a full-time job, rather than being trained.

Sometimes people come with potential, but need a lot of training, in which case it can, and probably should be, be treated as extension of their education.

If the magazine gets real value from the work that is being done,I believe it should pay for that value.

Too many magazines pay a pittance or nothing at all because they feel they are doing interns a favour, without reflecting on what the interns are doing for them.

10:03 pm  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

The other challenge is that unpaid internships discriminate against those who don't
(a) have parents willing to support them
(b) have spouses willing to support them
(c) have another job that actually pays a wage, live in a shared living arrangement where your rent is about $200/month and only eat one meal a day

Many of the unpaid internships I've seen in action have not been "educational," they've been "exploitational": people who have all of the skills to do a real paid job but who are asked to do it for free on the off chance that they may eventually be offered a low-paying editorial job.

And that's another concern: getting it for free devalues all editorial jobs. There's a reason you rarely see unpaid internships on the ad sales and business side of publishing--because ad reps know that their job is actually worth paying for. We editorial types, on the other hand, are just so gosh-darn grateful to be paid for our passion--and so uncomfortable with that whole filthy lucre thing--that we promote the idea that if you really, really love what you do, you should be willing to do it for next to nothing--and sometimes, for nothing at all.

10:00 am  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Old Fart, you're absolutely right. Students with loans and living expenses should be honoured to forego a paycheque, commute to a downtown office, and pay for meals and clothing (not to mention lattes with the editing crew) just for the privilege of (perhaps) a byline or their name in the masthead. What was I thinking?

Anonymous 1

6:09 pm  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Old Fart -- Paid internships are great...and yes, unpaid internships are also great for those few priveleged, parent-supported, indepedently wealthy, willing to live in abject poverty for their "craft"....but for the rest of us young farts it's not so great at all.
And yes, you have to pay for journalism school. But you can also get scholarships or student loans to go to journalism school.
As for This magazine's work-for-free program, yes, it is pretty ironic that the lefty political magazine participates in a system that simultaneously helps the rich and priveleged gain the experience they need to one day hold positions of influence in the media world AND exploits their workers (or is it all just a cruel joke they're playing on the rich kids).

Finally, Old Fart, how much free labour did you put in when you got your start? 6 months? a year?
'Cause back when you started I'm sure it was all about the love of a great magazine too....wasn't it?

5:56 pm  

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