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May 3, 2010

It's worse than an unpaid internship: YOU pay THEM

This seems wrong. Via Yahoo news comes the report that Huff Post, Vanity Fair and other media outlets are auctioning off internships. Yes, the money supports the Robert F. Kennedy Center for Justice and Human Rights. But it's still adding another layer to Auction America, where everything is available at a price. Once, internships were a way for companies to give back, help bright young people launch into the real world and groom essential talent for the future. Then they became unpaid, a source of cheap labor. Now they seem as if they're morphing into yet another attempted revenue source.

Breaking into the media business is tough, with a seemingly endless supply of bright young college graduates vying for unpaid internships at elite publications. Still, there's another route to getting one's foot in the door, if you have money to burn: Win an auction!

Want to "jump-start your career in the blogosphere" by way of the Huffington Post? That'll cost $9,000. How about spending a couple weeks strolling the rarefied halls at Vanity Fair? Try $2,900. Or maybe you'd rather get some face time with Anna Wintour at Vogue? Well, you'll have to dig $42,500 out of the bottom of your Hermes Birkin bag for that one.

Perhaps to offset the appearance that only wealthy interns would get inside, each publication also created a slot that doesn't cost anything, according to the RFK Center.

Posted by Jay Hancock at 3:03 PM | | Comments (7)
Categories: Media, Workplace


sort of like Vocation Vacations?

Another revenue stream from many a dying medium. And, I would love to just see the Huffington Post blown out of the water for their writer/pay practices. Kids, if you want to make it as a blogger, just find a topic and write it to your heart's content, find a few good sources and build your personality. Better than selling yourself to archaic name establishments.

This is the worst. Everyone knows young people are so desperate for opportunities that they will work insane hours for free... this just seems like piling on.

The NY Times had an interesting piece recently on the rules for 'unpaid' internships (particularly with for-profit organizations) and pretty much said that most internships with these companies are illegal.

If you are for-profit, you can only accept unpaid help in very specific situations - namely when you are providing education to the intern and they are doing significantly more than 'busy work.' But ask around, most interns get little in the way of true education from employers and do little more than make copies and answer phones.

Apparently there's a way to complain to the fed... I'm sure this idea would be prohibited by some rule or another.

Non-profits don't have the same rules, by the way, because they are allowed to accept volunteers.

This is but one more example of the ability of the wealthy to confer benefits upon their offspring.

Imagine the following: An employer is presented with two resumes.

One is from an applicant who graduated from Gilman or Bryn Mawr and then from Princeton as an undergrad. This individual has an impressive resume with all sorts of relevant extracurricular activities including a stint as an intern at some impressive corporation or think tank or publication that has activities that are related to those the prospective employer engages in.

The other applicant went to a public high school and then to the University of Maryland. This applicant's extracurricular activities were limited by the fact that he or she had to sling hamburgers at MacDonald's to pay for his or her education. Unpaid internships at prestigious places? Out of the question.

Do you want to guess which one gets that job?

They don't say if these are paid internships or not. I am wondering if money won in the auction goes to helping offset the pay received later by the intern. Hopefully, this is a trend that will not continue.

Write your congressmen and complain - it's the only way. Insist on coercing the Dept of Justice, Wage and Hours Division, to enforce the LAW. Right now they are only giving it lip service.

And when you write - be sure to ask for a REPLY - so they can't just toss it.

I've been raising a ruckus about this, and all the DOL's spokesperson would say to me (today, on the phone) is: 1) they have an internal policy of focusing on low wage workers (meaning, minimum wage trades, such as hotel cleaners) and 2) they will only (maybe) act when specific interns report their own bosses.

Newsflash: Interns don't report bosses for fear of blacklisting. Everyone already knows this.

And we wonder why companies have done away with entry level work, swapping in FREE "interns" instead? Illegally?

The free interns and the Dept. of Labor have trained them to expect illegal, free employees.


And keep writing - be a gadfly - they hate that - it's free to you, and it makes them work.

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About Jay Hancock
Jay Hancock has been a financial columnist for The Baltimore Sun since 2001. He has also been The Baltimore Sun's diplomatic correspondent in Washington and its chief economics writer. Before moving to Baltimore in 1994 he worked for The Virginian-Pilot of Norfolk and The Daily Press of Newport News.

His columns appear Tuesdays and Sundays.

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