Is The Unpaid Internship Dead? Not So Fast

young woman carrying two trays of stacked coffee cups
young woman carrying two trays of stacked coffee cups

By Lauren Berger

Are unpaid internships dead or more popular than ever? Are they a waste of time or the best use of time? The debate has been going on for years, but last week, a court ruling was issued against Fox Searchlight that is creating ripples. Two unpaid interns who worked on the set of "Black Swan'" had sued the studio, and last week, the judge ruled in their favor, saying that Fox Searchlight should have paid the interns since they were functioning as regular employees.

A few other lawsuits have been filed previously, and other large companies –- including Warner Brothers and Viacom –- have begun paying interns, a development that a few years back no one would have believed could happen.

Full disclosure: I had an unpaid internship at Fox during the summer of 2005. It was a fantastic experience -- and not just because of the Hollywood "glamour" factor. I found Fox to have one of the most structured company-wide internship programs I'd ever seen (and I did 15 internships in college). Fox provided their interns with company-wide "intern breakfasts", mentor opportunities, and an executive lunch series. (Fox does pay interns now.)