Former Condé Interns Win Court Case;WWD Dismisses Them As Irresponsible Shopaholics

Full disclosure: I worked at Condé Nast for a number of years and adored my interns. In fact, at W, I started a "Meet An Intern" blog series so our readers could get to know these bright young things whose script went far beyond, you guessed it, fetching coffee. 

But, that's not a universal experience. If you're familiar with the editorial or publishing worlds, you've probably heard of the contentious, drawn-out saga of Interns vs. Condé Nast — and the ending of the internship program that resulted from it. As we first reported in 2013, a class action lawsuit was brought against the publishing house by former W and New Yorker interns, who alleged that they were paid less than $1 an hour for their work. Two years later, a well-deserved $5.9 million dollar settlement is finally seeing the light of day. 

As WWD reported yesterday, interns who worked at Condé between 2007 and 2014 have until June 16, 2015 to file papers if they want to collect a portion of the settlement (ranging from $700 to $1,900), a story that should make anyone feel a dash of joy over the triumph of the underdog. I once had an intern who cobbled together $400 for a plane ticket from Detroit to spend the summer on his cousin's couch in New Jersey and commute the hour to Grand Central every weekday, just so he could gain "invaluable Condé experience." He had nuts and Diet Cokes for lunch. 

But, there's one part of the story that didn't make me that happy: its dismissive tone. Near the end of the news piece, Alexandra Steigrad warns, "But the former interns shouldn’t rush out and charge a pair of Louboutins or Manolos before they get their hands on the money," highlighting the "pro-rata basis" of the settlement (i.e. payment depends on how many people submit their forms).

Here's the thing. Or, three things. 
1. The snide remark had no place in a story about labor violations. 
2. Not all students hoping to work their way into magazine publishing are irresponsible shopaholics.
3. Are Loubs and Manolos even the gold standard of luxury anymore?! 

Steigrad may have been attempting levity in a sober situation, but ultimately, it's careless and unfair to assume that these interns — oh those silly interns! — would go and blow their settlement money on a pair of heels.

It's cheap to poke fun at interns' hard, often unglamorous work and inexperience with an eye-roll — the Devil Wears Prada routine, if you will. And, unlike the movie, it feels old. 
Advertisement