In short, they goofed.
On Wednesday, the Roosevelt Institute, a progressive non-profit organization supposedly devoted to carrying forward the legacy and values of Franklin and Eleanor Roosevelt, put out a call for unpaid writers to contribute to The New Guard, an offshoot of one of their other blogs. After liberals widely complained, the Roosevelt Institute quickly changed its tune and the VP of operations and communications, Cathy Harding, issued a lengthy apology note.
They’re now promising a “compensation structure.”
Also at issue is the fact that The New Guard already exists on the other side of the political spectrum. It’s a conservative-minded magazine founded in 1961 as the official pub of Young Americans for Freedom. The magazine, now a blog, relaunched at CPAC in 2010.
Meanwhile, on Wednesday, the Roosevelt Institute sent out the call for unpaid bloggers. In other words, a “cohort of emerging public voices interested in and capable of adding diverse and innovative perspectives” blah blah blah to contribute to their blog. What, is Arianna Huffington informally advising them?
Anyhow, according to their “Mission” statement, at the core of their work is the belief that young people can make a difference in the political process. The policy process, they write, is the way in which humans develop rules that govern their lives, and is a “powerful tool” for young people to develop.
They advertised the position as a six-month commitment. Duties: two blog posts a month and promoting the organization on social media. Salary: zilch.
“While this is an unpaid position, we are invested in providing contributors a professional experience,” they wrote. Sure, “professional.” Just no money. Other perks? Writers would get “editorial and promotion support from the organization’s communications professionals” and would get to “engage with the broader Roosevelt community.” That’s not all. They also promised the writers “national exposure” to a large public audience. Wow!!! Fun times!!!
Then on Thursday, recipients on their email list received the following ‘oops, my bad’ kind of note:
Dear [So and So],
We made a mistake yesterday. Roosevelt Institute Pipeline announced a call for unpaid writers to contribute to the New Guard, an offshoot of Roosevelt Institute’s Next New Deal blog. It was the wrong thing to do, for a couple of reasons: 1) As a progressive organization, Roosevelt Institute is committed to paying people, including interns, for their work – and does, and 2) in our eagerness to announce a publishing opportunity for emerging voices in the policy space (something that our members in particular were calling for), we posted the opportunity without fully vetting it. We worked hastily and made an error yesterday. We are grateful that the community of journalists, students, and progressives called us out on the mistake so quickly and reiterated the values of fair labor that should undergird all we do.
In line with that, we are temporarily putting the brakes on the call for New Guard writers while we develop the compensation structure. To be crystal clear: We remain committed to bringing new, younger voices to the policy space. We want to ensure that we pursue that goal with the kind of intentionality and standards of fair practice that are the hallmark of our work and represent Roosevelt’s values. So, we’re doing what we should have done to begin with — to take a bit more time with it. Stand by, there’s more to come soon.
Vice President, Operations & Communications