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Gawker published an e-mail conversation I had recently with a cordial Atlantic staffer. I forwarded the e-mail and my brusque commentary to vent about the the shittiness of unpaid internships. Sure, there are plenty of publications that staff armies of unpaid coffee-getters and google taskers, but this one struck a particular chord of indignation: The Digital Media Internship.

An unpaid position, Atlantic Media Company’s spring 2009 Digital Media Internships offer high achieving college juniors, seniors, and recent graduates of all ages a unique opportunity to be involved in the creation and launch of new digital media products leveraging the power of The Atlantic magazine brand.

“High achieving”? Hmm…I guess they’ll need some incentive to keep coming back. Achievement is key!

Oops! Looks like this page is outdated:

Interns are paid at a rate of $10.00/hour. Although we are flexible regarding school and other part-time work requirements, interns are expected to commit to 32-40 hoursweek on a consistent schedule. College credit will be awarded if desired.

The original description continues:

Digital Media Internships are unpaid. We are flexible regarding school and other part-time work requirements, but we expect interns to work at least 40 hours a week, on a consistent schedule. In addition, should your university allow it, we would be pleased to have students use the internship for college credit.

“Flexible”? My google calendar tells me that full semester course load + 40 hours = not flexible at all.

I know that newsrooms are crunching, staffers are getting laid off, and that it’s just a dreadful moment to be pursuing journalism, but at what point do internships with august publications become, frankly, exploitative?

Side note: Several publications have separate internship programs for minority representation—-fair enough. But how about separate programs for college students who aren’t endowed with parental checkbooks and who, gasp, pay for their own rent? Please, pay me for my services!

(Full disclosure: This internship is unpaid.)