Now THAT’s relevant work experience. Image courtesy of Argonne National Laboratory and licensed under CC by SA 2.0.The One Ring. The Holy Grail. UFOs. Bigfoot. Loch Ness Monster. And that internship you’re trying to get for the summer. If you believe this past Friday’s headline in the New York Times’ fashion section, you would believe that summer internship might be as hard to obtain as information about Area 51.

Over here at HackCollege, it’s safe to say we’ve got internships covered. We devoted a whole week to tips and tricks on obtaining and excelling at internships and Kelly recently discussed why unpaid internships might be as relevant as the dodo bird soon. Not to mention the internships some of our own editors have ended up nagging. 

The fashion section of the New York Times? Not so much. They’re too busy focusing on Givenchy and Chanel. Nothing against the Gray Lady, but college internships don’t exactly belong in the fashion section. Here’s some tips on wading through the B.S. of the article:

Claim: Internships are down this summer due to the “sputtering economy” and federal rules over unpaid internships. Half true. Neither helps, but the economy is chief to blame. When there’s a downturn, most organizations want less bodies around – regardless of whether or not they’re paying them. The federal rules decrease the number of internships, but increase the quality. If a company is being scrutinized over their unpaid interns, they’re not going to have them shining shoes and fetching coffee – it’s a truly valuable experience.

Implication: The federal regulations are limiting the number of internships and leaving qualified candidates out in the cold. True. This isn’t anything new though. The process of achieving internships has always been difficult and as internships become more desirable, the number of available slots decrease. It’s a dog-eat-dog world, similar to fighting for a position in the workforce. This isn’t a bad thing.

Claim: Fox Business Network’s John Stossel (formerly of ABC’s 20/20) hired unpaid interns who learned more from him than they learned in college. True, with a very large but. First off, Stossel is emphasizing the value of an internship – work experience in one’s predicted field, getting outside the classroom and out of the box to understand how the “real world” works. He is 100% completely right there. If one has the choice between an unpaid internship and no internship at all and can financially afford taking the unpaid internship, I’d strongly recommend it. Here’s the large but. We at HackCollege just believe that internships should be compensated – ideally with cold hard cash, but I personally believe college credit is an acceptable substitute; it’s better than nothing. Stossel isn’t with us there – he said he didn’t have the cash to compensate his interns. I’m sure if these same federal regulations were put into place then, his employers would have found a way to comply, and it would have enhanced the quality of both the internship and the interns.

The New York Times understands the importance of college students seeking summer internships but is viewing the issue with the wrong lens. The article focuses on short-term struggles and not the benefits of compensating interns in the long run. 

The Coveted but Elusive Summer Internship [via The New York Times]

Do you think interns should be paid? Leave a comment or tell us on Twitter.