“I was opposed to the job morally, but luckily I’m fortunate enough that my parents supported me while I did it. I know most people aren’t so lucky. It’s just a lousy situation.”
“Living in DC I can’t help but think that the city would shut down if all the hill interns who are literally paying money to work for 40 hours a week, walked out for the day.”
“The intern economy is so awful, and even worse are the adults and other members of this generation who tell me I should feel thankful and lucky for being grossly underpaid and burdened with life-stunting debt at 23 years old. I see no way out.”
These are a just a few stories from more than 240 people who have shared their intern stories with ProPublica so far.
This Kickstarter is all about documenting the emerging intern economy in the United States – a story hidden in plain sight. Our mission is to hire an intern to help us investigate these stories in a meta/multimedia way.
Why? Because the number of internships in the U.S. has ballooned over the past few decades, with one recent study estimating more than 50 percent of graduating seniors holding some sort of internship during their time at school.
But the news media have yet to take a really deep look at this emerging workforce. And protection for interns – especially unpaid interns – has fallen through the cracks. That's why we’ve decided to investigate.
We’ve begun our investigation with a call for intern stories, and more than 240 people have shared their experiences so far. But there are millions of stories to tell.
What we'll do with the funds
Your donations will fund one 16-week fall reporting internship, with travel budget, to produce a microsite on the intern economy. It will launch in August.
The microsite will feature multimedia reporting and data visualizations that creates a geography of unpaid internships. Our intern will hit the road, traveling to cities and college campuses across the United States to interview current and former interns, employers, career counselors and parents in our attempt to chart the intern economy.
Who benefits most from these internships? What protections exist for interns who encounter discrimination or harassment? Are interns being fairly compensated? These are some of the questions we will tackle.
We’ll use video, animations and graphics to tell the stories, and use new tools to make them interactive. You’ll be able to follow our journey on blogs and social media, in real-time — a new approach to investigative reporting. Instead of spending months reporting behind the scenes, we’re opening our investigation up to provide more opportunities for you – interns, parents, employers, educators and others – to help us report the story.
Your donations will cover the travel, production costs and our intern’s salary. He or she will be paid $700 a week (just like all of our interns).
Who we are
ProPublica is an investigative newsroom in New York. We’ve done a lot of stuff on fracking, hedge funds that helped the economy explode and police misconduct in New Orleans after Katrina (among other things). And our interns do amazing work. What’s in it for you?
What’s in it for you?
For starters, some great swag emblazoned with our Eager Intern Beaver (we thought he was a fitting project mascot). We have also included more ways for donors to participate in our investigation. At each donation level, you’ll be getting the awesome rewards to the right. Two of them (the t-shirt and the tote bag) will have our Eager Beaver, designed for this investigation.
And as a bonus, the Knight Foundation has generously agreed to donate additional money to our project based on how many Kickstarter donations we get. If we get 250 backers, Knight will give us $2,500. So in this case, even $5 really does make a difference.
If you are an unpaid intern without extra funds to donate, you can still help make this project a success by sharing this Kickstarter campaign with literally everyone you know. Tell your boss. Tell your professors. Tell your friends. Tell your parents. And don’t forget to share your story with us here.
Remember: the more money we raise, the more resources we can put toward telling the millions of intern stories across the nation. If we raise enough, we can even hire two interns to devote to the cause.
Every. Donation. Counts. So please donate.
Risks and challenges
We're sure we’ll find a wealth of intern stories. But we have a hunch that getting people to talk on-the-record – and especially on camera – could be a challenge. No one wants to miff an employer that, in the future, could possibly lead to a job or letter of recommendation. That said, we have reporters in this office that have covered sensitive topics, and can coach an intern on how to obtain on-the-record statements.
Another challenge will be finding the right intern for the job. We’ll need someone with basic audio, video and investigative reporting skills, as well as on-camera sparkle, that we can train along the way. But we have a wealth of hiring experience, and promise we’ll put our nose to the grindstone to find the best fit by the start of the fall.
And finally, this intern's job will involve travel. This raises a risk that there will be production delays, but we're a creative lot and promise we'll do whatever we can to keep this project on schedule.Learn about accountability on Kickstarter
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