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09.07 Cool Careers – I was a Rolling Stone Intern…

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3188 Views

By Sean Corbett

The lie goes like this: a Rolling Stone intern works really hard, all day, and all the interns are in it for the learning experience, not the name.

The truth goes something a little more like this: we didn’t do a whole hell of a lot. But at least we’re wiser now. What we picked up from this experience is that the old idea of music journalism is dead and that magazines like Rolling Stone (today, not 30 years ago) are slowly killing us.

Land the internship and your mom will be excited forever, but it’s not like the VH1 reality show you didn’t watch, “I’m From Rolling Stone,” and it’s not like “Almost Famous.” We didn’t travel the globe arm-wrestling Ozzy or rollin’ with Snoop Dogg. We didn’t go on tour with The Police and we didn’t help Kevin Barnes put on makeup at Coachella. We didn’t get free tickets to anything and we didn’t get paid. I stapled, hole-punched, sorted mail, transcribed interviews, organized editors’ offices and took long lunches.

As soon as you step out of the elevator you’re immersed in the world of entertainment pop culture every second of every day. Before you can even swipe into the office, there are dozens of giant Rolling Stone covers lining the walls. Robin Williams, Jim Carey, Trent Reznor, they all say good morning. To your right are Jack and Meg, to your left are the Chili Peppers, socks and all. Oh hello, Jerry Seinfeld, how are you today? And as you make your way down the football field-length office for the first of maybe 40 times in any given day, original paintings of Axel Rose, David Bowie and some Ralph Steadman renditions of Richard Nixon welcome you.

The office décor was completely impressive beyond belief. It wasn’t like we were working in a mansion or on a movie set, but everything was perfect. It had to be, or owner and publisher Jann Wenner would fire someone. I once had to start cleaning an editor’s office on a Wednesday, so that it could be clean for Jann’s walkthrough on the following Monday. This particular editor had worked there for quite some time, but was still worried about getting fired on a whim because of a messy desk.

There were places we weren’t allowed to eat, drink coffee or even open mail; like at the $10,000 table that sat on the $7,000 woven rug. That table was for televised interviews only. The ceilings were high, most walls were curved, and the black and white bathrooms (which often served as second offices) were immaculate. On any given day, the conference rooms could be set up for an iMac conference, an invitation-only celebrity luncheon or a VH1 “I love the ‘90s” interview with music industry guru Executive Editor Joe Levy. I was told on my first day that editors’ office walls were re-built at one point with glass in order to discourage secretive cocaine use in the 70s. But people love to spread rumors.

They didn’t pay much attention to us, but I’d still stay late some days. I loved being there. I was luckier than most to experience such a strange and surreal environment during college. It’s the same sprawling office that Hunter S. Thompson, John Lennon and John Belushi probably…indulged in…from time to time, and I made the coffee there for a few months. As an intern at any organization, it’s an inglorious fact that part of your job is to sit around and wait for a chance to prove yourself. It’s the intern dilemma: don’t get in their way, but make an impression. You meet as many people as possible, learn to work well with them, and force them to remember you. The key is to think of yourself as a caddy for the writers and editors. You carry their bags, wipe their balls, add up the yardage and sometimes give unheard suggestions. For this caddying job you don’t get paid, but you do get to read an original ‘67 1st issue in the office library if you want to. You’re not the golf pro. They are. And somehow, you still become a better golfer through all this.

My iPod, which was later stolen (along with every other thing I idiotically brought into NYC that day), had every Zeppelin, White Stripes and Bob Marley song. I had duplicates of the Beatles B-sides. I have a Gonzo sticker on my car. I get a kick out of Andy Warhol and I want to be Annie Liebowitz.

I worked with the best magazine writers, the hippest pop-culture hounds and I helped, a little, to produce the most recognizable magazine in the world. I have no idea what this is going to mean in five years and I know even less about how I ended up in such a fresh, clean Midtown 6th Avenue office. And while I suppose I did actually end up there, really ending up there would be like wishing to live forever. Once you see that world first-hand, you realize it may not be what you want.

Why do I feel like Anne Hathaway?

For every part of me that wants a job there, there’s an equal part of me that doesn’t.

Bring me back to the farmlands of suburban West Boylston, MA!

No, I love it. This is where I’ve always wanted to be.

Right?

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I found myself walking down 6th Avenue one bright, shining Tuesday afternoon in May with a taped-up envelope, just a little bigger than magazine-size. Thinking back to conversations I overheard in the office that day, I was almost surely holding some cover shoot prints of then-future Rolling Stone cover girl, Amy Winehouse. It seemed I was on my first meaningful errand as a Rolling Stone intern. On my last day.

I could have opened it, sold it, showed some people. I could have delivered it to Mojo, Spin, Paste. I could have started a riot, held it for ransom. You know, leave with a bang. Amy Winehouse would never be on the cover of Rolling Stone, and it would have been all because of me.

But no, they had me good.

A magazine cover.

This is the kind of thing they want you to think is important.

But if I’m right about what I was carrying, then I was carrying a future piece of history. In my hands was a serious chunk of money-making pop culture. While there are millions of magazines in the world of entertainment, and Rolling Stone is only one of them, it’s a perfectly-branded piece of glossy gold.

I could feel the lingering affects of Annie Liebowitz seeping out of it, the kind of affects the magazine relies on these days, and I think I started to strut.

A strutting intern in un-washed jeans, torn sneakers and no iPod. How sad. Or how truly wonderful.

13 Comments

  1. Mr. Corbett,

    I am a Photojouranlism major at Central Michigan, looking for an internship somewhere I could get passionate about what I do.

    Who would I contact to even ask about an internship?

    Thank you,

    -Rebecca

  2. I loved reading this article it was very insightful on how it is at Rolling Stone. It has always been my dream to intern or hopefully work there someday, thank you for giving me a glimse of the magazine.

  3. reading this was interesting. Would you mind emailing me how did you go through the procedures of trying to be an inter for RS. Who did you contact, and all that.

  4. If you could email me how you got this position?
    Rolling Stone is my dream job, but I would like to talk to you a little more about it all.

    Thank you,
    Haley

  5. “A strutting intern in un-washed jeans, torn sneakers and no iPod. How sad. Or how truly wonderful”- amazing , this was so properly written, i was wondering how you earned the intership..im actually looking inot one myself! please email me =]

  6. I havent read this piece in more than 2 or 3 years, so it’s pretty funny to see all these comments. Thanks for reading it. Everyone seems to have the same question, so this is my best answer: To get the gig, I applied the normal way in Sept and heard nothing. Then I found the main Wenner Media phone number in Dec (can’t for the life of me find it now) and gave them a call, asking if they need anything else from me. They’d misplaced my app, and luckily found it while I was on the phone. Had the internship by the end of the week. At the end of the internship they offered me an unpaid blogging job and I said no, and instead probably burned a bridge by selling this article around. Be your own person. Thanks again everyone….

  7. my cousin works for rolling stone, she said she could get me a summer internship. im incredibley nervous to say the least, but i cant wait to step foot in those offices and serve people coffee all fucking day. but is there really nothing to it other than that? (im not expecting mick jagger to sit down and have lunch with me but im sure you did see some crazy shit… right?) im also wondering how the relationships between the other internships are going to be, no competition? back stabbing? i just hope to god there cool enough to spend long lunch hours with.

  8. This was informative and to die for well-written. You’ve got the right spin-fiend for records and words, you could work there if you wanted to.

  9. great story! I’ve always wanted to intern at rolling stone.. literally it’s what I think about half the time. It would be awesome if you can contact me at palomathoen@gmail.com because I have a few questions 🙂

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