Monday, November 29, 2010

Intern 101: If you don’t like something, keep your mouth shut?? 

Hey Edsters!

An interesting situation presented itself this week. But before I explain, I should first mention that I blog outside of the magazine world — nothing serious, just a personal blog on issues that interest or infuriate me.

So this week, a pretty controversial article hit newsstands — one that (despite the magazine’s usual credentials) begs for criticism or at least an outline of how it fell short in its reporting and subject portrayal. And so while all would be perfect for an exciting and honest critique, there’s a catch: I interned with this magazine last year.

And so the dilemma: Is it job-hunting suicide to openly criticize a magazine you know you’ll one day approach for a job?

I think an obvious answer is — don’t talk about it. Don’t blog about it. And certainly don’t criticize it. When you’re looking to break into the industry, you can’t risk shooting yourself in the foot by upsetting past editors.

But many of my friends and blog followers who know my background with the magazine have asked what I think of the situation. And I guess, blogging aside, I wonder — is it ever okay for someone looking to break into an industry to point out its faults? Must we pretend all is perfect with each magazine we apply to work or intern for? Just because we’re looking for jobs — does that mean we can’t voice opinions about things we’d like to see changed or improved within the publication? Will a potential employer instantly dismiss you for having publically disapproved of one article they wrote?

And then, what if in the coming years an article I disagree with is published by my employer? When the job-hunt equation is taken away, can you openly share concerns or criticisms that you have with the magazine’s content?

Basically, I’m curious about what you think. Do we as interns or employees have to unconditionally support everything the mag we work for, have worked for, or aspire to work for publishes? Is there any way to be new but still offer new ways of thinking, without shooting yourself in the foot?

Until next time,
Your (ethically-stumped) Features Intern


  1. I think if you criticize constructively, then there should be no harm done. Magazine publishers know that their articles aren't meant to be *the* one way you should look at a situation; they're offering a point of view. I would like to think that the writer/editor would like some negative AND positive feedback.

  2. Is it possible that those editors run by the words you write on your blog? It seems that even if they did, as long as your criticism is constructive, it should not be of great concern. You definitely don't seen like the type to be snot-nosed or critical, so a voice of opinion shouldn't be a problem. Or if you're really that worried, just don't do it! There are always people to voice off to that aren't necessarily part of the fashion world. :)

  3. Hi Ed just found your intern diaries, great idea. I worked on magazines as an intern for about six months before I got a job in social media.

    I think it's okay to question practices you don't agree with or understand but you have to remember that for better or worse, the editors are in charge because of their experience in the industry and have to make decisions based on what's best for the company they work for. You may not agree with a feature but sometimes that's what brings in money and ultimately pays the staff's wages.

    Of course if you feel completely at odds with what they're doing you have every right to walk away from the internship, as I once did. In that instance I felt that the way the staff behaved was inappropriate and didn't feel like I was learning anything new (they just threw me research they didn't want to do and asked me to fetch lunch).

    I think with an internship you have to consider the implications of blogging about any company. Especially if you can't prove what you're saying is true. It also makes you seem untrustworthy as a journalist. Just imagine you were an intern for a marketing or management role rather than journalism. How would the company react to your revelations then? They're not likely to employ you.

    However, if it's important to warn other interns then I see no reason why you shouldn't be an anonymous source for another individuals article.

    Great post! :)