There's blind item is causing a mild shitstorm on Fashionista today about a "publishing house" that has been "quietly paying interns - but only if they're of a 'minority.'" Commenters immediately called out Hearst, which, what do you know, we called them up and it turns out that like myriad other media organizations recruits local minority interns* through a separate internship program with special terms and specifications, one of them happens to be a salary of $12 an hour. Now there is something to get enraged about. Not. Who planted this fucking item? Don't tell me, I don't want to know. This is for you.Dear Disgruntled White Journalism Industry Intern Who Works For Free, What inspired you to get into journalism, kid? I'll tell you what got me into it: journalism. It is a shitty, vicious cycle I'm always meaning to break out the minute I quit abusing alcohol. But anyway: I was writing really bad music reviews for my college paper when it dawned on me that the dorks who listened to the police scanners and checked the logbooks for the "crime" beat were the ones with the actually glamorous jobs. Because there was all this crime on our campus! See, my school was an oasis of obscene mostly-white binge-drinking privilege smack in the middle of an impoverished swath of one of those dirt poor second cities that got abandoned by its economy sometime during the seventies and embarked on a ruinous adventure trying to smoke it all out through a crackpipe in the eighties. (Back then they used to solve problems by bombing them. ) In any case, at some point - maybe like the very first weekend of freshman year - it occurred to me that there was no way "here" from "there." The nicest sweetest hardest-working most well-meaning person could be born ten blocks west of my campus and it was just never going to happen for her; worse, she wouldn't even think to aspire to it, though she might think to aspire to some of its shoe collections. I thought this was totally fucked up, and I am one of those people who when I think something is totally fucked up copes by writing about how fucked up it is - yeah, if I were one of those people who enjoyed actually helping I would not have this drinking problem - and anyway, that is what I chose to do, and the more I wrote about it the more I learned and the more I learned the more totally fucked up it became. Just like yourself I had to make some "sacrifices" to keep on this awesome career path. I didn't have money so I worked at Starbucks and took odd jobs the whole time I was working for free till eventually got a job that actually paid me to keep writing about it. It'll happen to you too, if you're masochistic enough! Money was not easy to come by because there were too many people who wanted to write for a living than there were readers to support them; and I'll tell ya, the past ten years haven't made things any easier on this side of that ratio! But hey, I was a white middle-class kid born in America; I actually did have a modicum of free will, and over and over again that will was to remind other people with free will of all the persistent little factors fucking up that sort of freedom for others, and guess what? Slavery is a still a big one. Racism is totally up there. Poverty = totally huge! Look I don't tell you this to be a scold; I am also here for the jokes and the glamorous lifestyle and because I'm a total hater and I don't pretend to think these heavy subjects are hitting you over the head if your internship consists of calling in resort wear for spreads in Harper's Bazaar. But think creatively for a second: why the fuck can't Harper's Bazaar pay you? It's really the same reason they have to give fashion editors "wardrobe allowances" instead of just paying them more money; we're all employed perpetuating the same myth about how life is lived, just in varying degrees of outlandish. If there were enough rich people buying the fancy shit they read about in magazines you'd be rich too; that would be how you found out about those magazines in the first place. But no, I'm guessing you're not. I mean, you are rich enough to accept an unpaid magazine internship in one of the world's most expensive cities, so you actually are pretty rich, but whatever, it's not enough for all the things you'd like to buy. Why is everything so expensive? How come bankers start at six figures and you'd be lucky to start at sixteen grand? Why do you even bother promoting $800 belts to readers who are like, nurses in the Midwest or whatever? Look, I don't know, I would never personally do that, but maybe you like fashion and glamour and "aspirationalism", because maybe you liked playing dress-up as a child or whatever. Maybe you're a dreamer. Don't abandon those dreams after one little glimpse inside the dream sausage factory! Because I have another inspiring affirmative action publishing story for you. Once upon a time a writer landed a job at Entertainment Weekly only to be informed by a co-worker that the editor who'd hired her got a $10,000 bonus because she was a minority. And Entertainment Weekly is not exactly Goldman Sachs! She was distraught when it happened, but she stayed in the business, and went on to become one of the most dedicated, hardest-working media members I have ever met. Because the thing is that as you grow up in the media the dysfunctional relationship between the fantasy world that made you want to go into the business and the ugly realities lurking beneath the surface of everything is pretty much the only thing that keeps you going. And if you really think a bunch of minorities getting a poverty level paycheck when the white kids work for free qualifies as an "ugly reality" you should quit right the fuck now. Because the thing is, no, affirmative action isn't fair, but I'd almost advocate keeping it around in its current flawed race-based state solely on the basis that "neither is fucking anything."
*Who COULDN'T TAKE THE INTERNSHIPS if they didn't pay, according to my sources.