Former Mamamia Interns Speak Out After Unpaid Internship Sells For $10,000
"They're like the Mean Girls of the media world."
One of Australia's most prominent women's websites, Mamamia, has defended its donation of an unpaid internship to a charity auction.
The internship ended up selling for $10,000, sparking mixed reaction from social media. Many criticised the company for having someone pay for the opportunity to do unpaid work for them.
The statement also addressed criticism of the site's intern program more broadly.
"[The program] has unearthed some enormously talented writers and budding young journalists from a diverse range of socio-economic backgrounds. But it comes at a net cost to us as a company. A lot of resources go into training interns and making sure they are getting something out of the opportunity."
"The program fully complies with MEAA guidelines."
Freedman also said the internships ran for two weeks, or one day a week for three months. Anyone working past the internship period was hired as a casual and paid, she said.
She said letters of recommendation were offered to interns at the end of the program, and interns were allocated a mentor from the editorial team.
The statement also mentioned that interns "very very rarely" write content that is then published on the site.
But Buzzfeed News spoke to several former Mamamia interns, some of whom contradicted Freedman's claims.
One former intern, who wished to remain anonymous, said she never received a letter of recommendation at the end of her internship program, and that the mentor-intern relationship wasn't as great as it's pitched.
"The biggest job is to moderate comments," she said. "Stacking the dishwasher was also on the intern list."
"When I worked there [in] mid-2014, they [mentors] sat at a different table and I never once saw someone from the senior team go over and 'mentor' them."
"They're like the Mean Girls of the media world, their interns are too scared to speak out, even former ones."
Another former intern, who also wished to remain anonymous, said the program was "intense" but that "no one ever made us get coffee or do photocopies".
"Having Mamamia on my resume definitely helped open doors," she said. "However, the pitching process was a bit iffy. I only wrote what I wanted to maybe once during the entire internship, but I don't resent that."
"The work culture, as nice as everyone is, is so intense. Hardly anyone leaves their desk for lunch. It's hard to step away from work even for five minutes."
"My mentors were rather busy, so it took a lot of effort and chasing on my end to get feedback on my work sometimes. The editorial meeting with industry leaders took place once a month on days you may not be rostered as an intern. But you're still welcome to come in for that hour and attend the talk."
Adriana Stefanatos was an intern with Mamamia for more than six months between November 2013 and July 2014. She said Mamamia's internship program was similar to other unpaid programs across the media industry.
"I applied for the internship like you would anywhere else," she said. "I knew it was unpaid. It was one day a week, or sometimes once a fortnight."
"There was general work you would be doing at any editorial site: writing copy, SEO, that kinda stuff, but a lot of the responsibility put on interns was comment moderation."
"That should definitely be something that should be paid because its not a skill that you're getting out of."
Stefanatos said she learned a lot during her time at the site, and was treated well throughout.
"As an organisation for me it was really valuable, I learned a lot, I met people, I was treated well, I liked the people i was working with. I don't think I was exploited, I don't think i was treated unfairly when I was there. But keep in mind that was two years ago."
Stefanatos said unpaid internships were common across the media. "I don't think [Mamamia] is at fault," she said.
"When I was there, Jamilla (Rizvi) was still the editor. She was very hands on, and making sure the interns were involved ... Making sure we were learning and taking responsibility. So I think maybe that's changed and may be why people are saying Mamamia's internships aren't great."