So a former intern at Harper’s Bazaar is suing Hearst for not paying her. It’s unclear from the reports whether she accepted the internship knowing she wouldn’t be compensated; I would expect so, since unpaid internships are pretty common in magazine publishing.
Regardless, I feel her pain. I knew from high school that I wanted to work at a magazine and was determined to do whatever it took to make that happen. I soon realized that would mean taking on unpaid work. (I was in college just before social media became ubiquitous and enabled recruiting stories like this one. When I started a paid internship after college, Twitter was still relatively obscure.) Fortunately, I was able to do so, because my family was able to swing the costs, and my internships, overall, were worthwhile experiences.
But now, I would advise college students against doing unpaid internships, especially if they will create a financial burden. In my relatively brief experience in the industry, I’ve found that a portfolio of clips/layouts/photos is far more valuable than a resume listing, and that can be gotten by joining (or starting!) a campus publication and working for local publications during the academic year. And, I must note, there are publications that do pay interns: Inc. (my employer) is one.