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Story pick: How some people (guess who?) get internships

I got my naivete about this knocked out of me when I was finishing up college and called the newspaper that I had spent hundreds of hours writing stories for when I was supposed to be studying history. How do I apply for your summer internship? I asked.

"Oh, sorry, we'd love to have you, but our internships are only for the kids of big politicians and the publisher's friends," my editor replied. Whereupon he reeled off the names of some of Philadelphia's most prominent and connected families and announced that their precious offspring would be the paper's interns that summer.

So I went to Miami instead, where the interns were selected based on their past writing, not on their bloodlines.

Now comes the New York Times, with a delicious piece about how Mayor Michael Bloomberg's administration chooses some of its interns -- people with names such as Tisch, Blankfein, Leinsdorf and Doctoroff, names that echo in the power alleys of Manhattan. The city's interns include the children and other relations of people such as playwright Neil Simon, the late TV newsman Tim Russert, and Thomas Secunda, co-founder of Bloomberg's financial information company.

It's a splendidly reported piece, based on a Freedom of Information Act request by reporters David Chen and Michael Barbaro.

Of course, the city government also gives summer jobs to unconnected people who just happen to deserve such plum posts, but the administration's practice of handing out internships to, as the Times puts it, "dozens of young people with connections to the mayor’s friends, business associates and government appointees" hardly comports with Bloomberg's stated opposition to nepotism.

As the Times story notes, "In a fiery 2004 speech, [Bloomberg] lambasted the state system for appointing civil and Supreme Court judges, saying it 'allows party leaders to dictate hiring decisions based on party connections — or family connections — and not on merit.'"

By Marc Fisher  | July 20, 2010; 8:44 AM ET
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Cute opening anecdote, but I suspect it's a lie.
Unless you're willing to identify at least the Philadelphia newspaper, and preferably some of the fortunate interns, I'm forced to rely on my own experience with the Philadelphia Inquirer and The Daily News, where I've seen hundreds of interns hired over three decades. I can't think of one who was a kid of a politician or of the publisher's friends. You got any examples to back up your claim?

Posted by: mee21 | July 20, 2010 11:29 AM | Report abuse

That opening tale is better suited to a cocktail party than to a respected news site. It's highly irresponsible for a journalist to lob such a serious accusation without any facts. Did that conversation with the Inquirer editor really happen? I doubt it. You tell, but you don't show.

Posted by: westworld | July 20, 2010 1:21 PM | Report abuse

Marc Fisher spent hundreds of hours writing for an unnamed Philadelphia paper then was told by an unnamed editor that he didn't qualify for an internship because he wasn't politically connected? What paper? What editor? What politically connected interns? Then there is this matter of spending hundreds of hours writing -- and presumably being paid -- for the paper. If you were that good, why were you applying for an internship and not a full-time job?
Sorry Marc, but this anecdote is a Teamster's wonder. And if you don't know what that means, go ask your old editor,

Posted by: greenshade | July 20, 2010 1:46 PM | Report abuse

Others have already pointed out the fact-free nature of this posting, so I'll just add this: I worked at The Philadelphia Inquirer for 17 years, and I never saw this sort of thing happen.

Posted by: KBookman | July 20, 2010 3:33 PM | Report abuse

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