Tokyopop’s Summer Intern Tour

Tokyopop logo

Tokyopop has advertised a unique internship — they’re looking for students to spend the summer, from the end of May to Labor Day, traveling with them “to promote TOKYOPOP, our stories, and our characters.”

They’re looking for those who can plug the company using “social media tools”; setup, host, and take down events at conventions and bookstores; and “plan, shoot, edit, and upload video for a web-based “reality show”-styled grassroots marketing endeavor”. The company has already set up a promotional site where the applicants are posting.

Tokyopop logo

That’s one way to staff your con booths! And reaching out directly to the audience fits right in with Tokyopop’s scrappy approach. I can only imagine how the rolling bunch of college kids looks and acts around the beginning of September, after three months on the road together. Their “reality show” should be quite amusing.

How odd that I noticed this at the same time I was reading this New York Times article about the increasing number of unpaid internships. The usual understanding is that the company gets grunt work done for free while providing the student college credit, experience, and a foot in the door … but turns out that that’s often illegal.

there aren’t going to be many circumstances where you can have an internship and not be paid and still be in compliance with the law,” said Nancy J. Leppink, the acting director of the [Labor] department’s wage and hour division.

Ms. Leppink said many employers failed to pay even though their internships did not comply with the six federal legal criteria that must be satisfied for internships to be unpaid. Among those criteria are that the internship should be similar to the training given in a vocational school or academic institution, that the intern does not displace regular paid workers, and that the employer “derives no immediate advantage” from the intern’s activities. … [W]hen the jobs are mostly drudgery, regulators say, it is clearly illegal not to pay interns.

I can’t think of any internships I’ve seen or participated in that that fulfill those rules. Why would an employer deal with the paperwork and supervision if they didn’t get benefit from it? Then there’s the problem of only well-off students being able to take advantage of many of these opportunities; those who have to work to afford school or related costs can’t take off a summer to work for free.

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