Progressive Mother Jones Magazine is a big believer in “do what I say not what I do.” As America approached the holiday buying season Mother Jones writers continually attacked Walmart, the country’s biggest retailer for paying some of its workers at the federal minimum wage level $7.25 an hour. While there are many reasons to disagree with the Mother Jones stance, perhaps the biggest reason was revealed on Monday—even at $7.25 an hour, Walmart is paying 21% more than Mother Jones pays its lowest level employees. That’s assuming the magazine’s employees are working only 40 hours a week, which according to the report is a big assumption.
According to an article in Vice Magazine called The Exploited Laborers Of The Liberal Media, Mother Jones employs “fellows” positions that replaced internships. And those “fellows” would get a quick raise if they left their present jobs and went to work at America’s largest retailer:
The fellowship offered by Mother Jones is neither an internship nor an entry-level job—“No coffee or laundry errands here!” says the magazine—but the compensation could fool you: “Fellows receive a $1,000 monthly stipend.” Assuming a 40-hour workweek (many journalists work much longer hours than that), that means a fellow at Mother Jones earns less than $6 an hour in a state, California, that just decided to raise the minimum wage to $10. In San Francisco, where the magazine is based, $1,000 a month isn’t enough to pay for both food and shelter.
“It’s not easy, but our fellows… make it work,” said Elizabeth Gettelman, a spokesperson for Mother Jones. “Some supplement their incomes with freelance work, and they find shared housing in the Bay Area that they can afford. But we are very aware of the financial challenges they face.” She added that the magazine is always looking for ways to “improve the level of financial support.” After six months, she notes, a fellowship at Mother Jones can be extended the rest of the year at a rate of $1,400 a month.
That’s a raise, but it’s still not enough. In California, a single adult needs to earn more than $1,900 per month “to make a secure yet modest living,” according to a living wage calculator on the Mother Jones website. Work a full year as a fellow at the magazine and you will make $14,400—or put another way, about $11,000 less than you will need to support yourself in a place that enjoys the highest rents in the nation. When it’s all over, you may get a better title on your resume, sure, but you will also lose the title to your car.
One former MJ intern who spoke to me on the condition of anonymity told me they “slept on an air mattress for six months while I worked there because I couldn’t afford a real one.” Another former intern said, “During our first meeting with HR at Mother Jones, we were advised to sign up for food stamps.”
Perhaps Mother Jones should examine its own house before attacking others.
UPDATE: Mother Jones has told the Daily Caller they intend to raise the interns salary by 50% as of January 2014.
“As a nonprofit investigative news organization, this is an issue
that Mother Jones has always felt strongly about, which is why we have
been paying our interns a substantive stipend longer than many the
industry,” she explained. “It’s also why, as of January 1, our 2014
budget increases the base fellowship stipend to $1,500 — an amount
equivalent to slightly more than California minimum wage.”
50%! Gee they must have been really embarrassed.