Tent-dwelling intern sought media attention

Hyde had been living in his tent, near the World Trade Organization on the shores of Lake Geneva, for about two weeks. Keystone

David Hyde, the New Zealander who made global headlines last week for living in a tent during his unpaid United Nations internship in Geneva, has admitted that there is more to his story.

This content was published on August 16, 2015 - 13:06

Last week, news about a young graduate forced to live in a tent to make ends meet during his unpaid six-month internship at the UN struck a chord with many. The story of David Hyde, a 22-year-old international relations graduate from New Zealand, soon went viral, calling into question the controversial practice of employing interns for free.

On Wednesday, Hyde said he was quitting the position because, as he told reporters in Geneva, “it would be too difficult to continue to focus on my work as an intern at this stage”. 

The announcement invited sympathy from many readers and followers of the story on social media: a driven young man appeared to have been thwarted in his career dreams by a harsh economic reality.

However, it now appears there were other reasons for Hyde’s early departure.

On Saturday, Hyde gave an interview to online magazine The Intercept in which he admitted that he and his Swiss-German girlfriend had planned the stint in the tent to provide fodder for a documentary on unpaid internships. After setting up camp in Geneva, Hyde sent anonymous emails to media editors to call attention to his “situation”.

Not entirely honest

The flood of media attention that followed was evidently more than Hyde had bargained for, and he abandoned his social experiment and resigned from his UN position soon afterwards.

“Yes, I organised the media attention so that the media would address this question,” Le Temps quoted Hyde as saying in an interview for the independent newspaper Jet d’Encre. “But could I have imagined or predicted the media reaction that would follow? Absolutely not.”

Hyde had admitted early on to the media that he had not been entirely honest during the internship application process, claiming he could support himself financially for the un-salaried six-months when he knew he could not. However, what at first appeared to be youthful optimism and naivety now appears to be an orchestrated quest to bring attention to a controversial issue.

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