You could say Condé Nast invented the Millenial-centric media internship: menial, subservient, under- or unpaid, yet intoxicatingly close to the reigning powers of New York City’s culture industry. Now they’re killing it off.
According to Erik Maza at Condé’s own Women’s Wear Daily, the magazine publisher is officially ending its unpaid internship program, long known for its exclusivity and its principled refusal to grant a living wage. And for a very good reason: The program became an embarrassment in the strain of liberal culture Condé helped shape—and, more importantly, a legal headache.
Former interns, at Condé and elsewhere (including Gawker Media), have recently started suing their former employers for back wages, mounting campaigns against unpaid labor at the precise moment—inaugurated by the Occupy movement in late 2011—when blatant inequity, in income and access, finally became worth talking about, and talking about a lot.
The media class comprises thousands of former unpaid interns, so you’re going to hear a lot about how their internships were so valuable, so demanding yet fulfilling—look at them now!—that they just can’t believe Condé would do such a thing. Gosh, kill their internship program! You’d think the company, and maybe the entire media industry, was closing down for good.
It’s not clear if Condé will follow the lead of companies like Atlantic Media and Gawker Media and start offering paid fellowships. Here’s hoping it will.
[Image credit:Vanity Fair]