Unpaid summer internships are a wonderful opportunity for would-be journalists to get on-the-ground training for a profession we all love.
But after cutbacks in Gannett's human-resource staff, many supervisors may not have the guidance needed to avoid violating federal wage and hour law on unpaid vs. paid work.
a six-point test to determine whether those hired are truly interns that do not have to be paid. Point No. 3 is especially relevant to GCI newspapers that have undergone layoffs. It says: "The intern does not displace regular employees, but works under close supervision of existing staff."
In other words, a newspaper using unpaid interns to do the work of laid-off employees would almost certainly violate federal law. (To be sure, this is largely a non-issue if interns are paid.)
This leads to a weekly newsletter Asbury Park Press Publisher Tom Donovan sent Friday to employees at GCI's N.J. newspapers. Among them, it mentions the Daily Record at Parsippany. In February, the daily was among three N.J. papers that, combined, eliminated nearly half their newsroom employees. I have X'd out the names of the interns mentioned in his newsletter:
"Interns [XXXXX] (reporting), [XXXXX] (photography) and [XXXXX] (video) hit the ground running this summer, serving up solid coverage on all information platforms. They’ve handled all assignments with substance and style, and their enthusiasm and skills have allowed us to happily expand the local report."
I do not know whether these interns are paid, or not. I do not know whether the paper was able to "expand the local report" without touching areas once covered by employees displaced via layoffs. I welcome any additional information from Donovan, who in January promised what seemed impossible, given the severity of the job cuts:
"We still have a very significant number of local reporters full-time in those markets. . . . We're not ceding any of those markets from a local content standpoint."
Is your site employing summer interns? Are they paid, or unpaid? Please post your replies in the comments section, below. To e-mail confidentially, write jimhopkins[at]gmail[dot-com]; see Tipsters Anonymous Policy in the rail, upper right.
[Image: today's Daily Record front page, Newseum]