Explainer Mailbag: Slate’s Intern Scandal

A couple of weeks ago, Ed Wingenbach posed this question in “The Fray”: Are Slate internships, like Washington internships, a form of “affirmative action for rich people”? Wingenbach’s question was prompted by a “Yes, Related” item in a previous Explainer mailbag about Slate’s Washington, D.C., summer intern Joshua Foer, who is a sibling of Franklin Foer of the New Republic and novelist Jonathan Safran Foer. How does Slate select its interns, and are they paid?

The answer, straight from the mouth of Deputy Editor and wealthy gadabout Jack Shafer:

“As an egalitarian Web site of the first order, Slate has never discriminated against the sons, daughters, nieces, nephews, or family pets of the rich, powerful, and connected in filling its paid intern slots. While other periodicals recruit interns by publishing a casting call, Slate has largely depended on recommendations by university professors, journalism colleagues, and our former interns to fill those ranks. We’ve also hired candidates who beat down our doors in search of a position.

“Based on my quick review of the list of past and present Slate interns, I can tell you that the very best strategy to become a Slate intern is not to know someone powerful or rich, but to know a Slate intern. If you don’t know anybody powerful or rich and have never met a Slate intern who might grease the wheels for you, do what others in your position have done: Send us a cover letter, clips, resume, and references to “I Wanna Work at Slate,” 1 Microsoft Way, Redmond, WA 98052. We hire interns in Redmond, Wash., Washington, D.C., and New York. New openings arrive sporadically, so don’t file an EEOC complaint if we don’t hire you right away or if we don’t respond to your mail promptly.

“And it’s a funny thing that Mr. Wingenbach should mention the Foers. Josh Foer had a spectacular summer working for us, making him the man to beat to fill the intern slot next summer in the Slate D.C. office.”

Now, on to other business. Eugene Volokh points out that Explainer’s statement as to why federal legislation was required to create the Northeast Dairy Compact  wasn’t quite right. Explainer wrote that Congress stepped in because of its constitutional authority to regulate interstate commerce. But as Volokh points out, the Compact Clause of the Constitution (“No State shall, without the Consent of Congress … enter into any Agreement or Compact with another State, or with a foreign power …”) requires Congress to approve all compacts, whether they regulate interstate commerce or not. Volokh apologizes for being a “fussbudget,” and he promises that he allocated only $16.94 to fussing over the distinction.

A heartfelt Explainer apology goes to Slate reader Andrew Smith. Explainer thanked Glenn Kinen and Noelle Knapp for asking the question about Bush and stem-cell research  but somehow overlooked Andrew.

Readers interested in the Raelians  may want to check out this article in Nature, recommended by Slate reader Alan Prince. Nothing about aliens or cloning Jesus, but it does trace the development of the popular (mis?)conception of cloning as creating “biological carbon copies” of human beings.

A final Fray-related question: William Vehrs, known throughout Fraydom as the estimable WillV, has taken his Bring Back “News Quiz” campaign to the Explainer mailbag. “Explain what happened to News Quiz!” he demands. Explainer directs WillV and others like him to thisSlate Fare column. The upshot: Randy Cohen is writing a book and doesn’t have time to resume News Quiz, but Slate is on the lookout for a feature that runs no more than once a week, elicits reader interaction, and showcases Randy’s formidable snarkiness. Post your suggestion in the Fray.

Next question?