image from nyulocal.com Partly due to a lawsuit in a second industry famous for its use of unpaid internships, the unpaid internship "rite of passage" is becoming risky business for employers. A few months ago, I wrote about a lawsuit against Fox Searchlight Pictures won by two interns working in the Hollywood film industry. Now it is the publishing industry that is under attack. Lisa Denmark brought suit against Vogue , one of several magazines published by Condé Nast Publications. Some of her complaints included: being "terrorized" for not using sticky tape correctly on bulletin boards being "forced" to load books into an editor's car being "forced" to take items to a resale bookstore being "forced" to pick up dry cleaning being "forced" to buy and serve juice. Hearst Publications has also been sued by interns. Unpaid internships are sought by many students and unemployed college graduates as a way to "get a foot in the door" or to boost a resum é--particularly in hard-to-break-into creative fields, as well as business and finance . But there is a fine line in federal labor law between enforced servitude without compensation, and what constitutes an internship that is educational and beneficial to the person doing the work. Some businesses have routinely crossed that line, but recent litigation seems to make that gamble less cost-effective. Women's Wear Daily and Cond é Nast have recently cancelled their internship programs due to this risk. This doesn't help anyone. One media corporation, Atlantic Media , has taken a different approach. They did away with unpaid internships a few years ago, and has replaced them with 45 highly competitive, paid "fellowships." One major advantage of this approach is that its pool of applicants can be more diverse. (Unpaid internships have been a luxury that only those with wealthy family support could afford.) “ We were looking for ambitious, creative, original journalists, and we did not want income to be a barrier,” said James Bennet, editor in chief of The Atlantic . “Publishing that includes the web means we need to reach a national audience, and that requires a diverse mix of class, region, race and, yes, generations to do our job. ” Is the following a consequence or coincidence?: The Atlantic has grown 34% in the first two quarters of 2013 . What tasks make a great internship? I think the following pie chart was meant as a joke...but, like most humor, probably has a grain of truth: image from www.fullstop.net [ joke..?.] Sources: " How Washington Abandoned America's Unpaid Interns " by Stephen Lurie, the Atlantic, November 4, 2013. " Overlook the Value of Interns at Great Peril ," by David Carr, New York Times: the Media Equation, November 25, 2013. Follow up: The author of one of these source articles cites his own experience as producing results similar to those experienced by the Atlantic . Describe that experience and why it was significant.
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