According to Advertising Age, The Huffington Post is auctioning off an internship. Bidding is now at $13,000, and the minimum next bid is $15,500. “Jumpstart Your Career in the Blogsphere With An Eye Opening Internship at The Huffington Post in New York or Washington,” says the site hosting the auction. So it’s come to this.
I’m still not convinced that this isn’t some kind of brilliant joke about the way Huffpo has devalued the work of writers. After all, as Advertising Age notes, its own media columnist Simon Dumenco predicted just such an eventuality in January. “Now maybe the Huffington Post could be worth more if it further cut its burn rate,” he wrote. “For instance, rather than not pay its bloggers, it could charge them -- for the privilege of getting to help maintain the jetsetting lifestyle of the Great Arianna, of course.”
To be fair, the auction is for charity -- proceeds go to the Robert F. Kennedy Center for Justice and Human Rights. Still, it’s pretty unseemly. Not only is Huffington asking people to pay for the privilege of being a lackey, all in the hope of entering into a field whose wages she’s helping to drive down by her reliance on free content. Not only is she mocking any pretense of meritocracy. She’s also reifying the class barriers that already keep so many out of the media world – barriers that the Web was supposed to help undermine. It’s bad enough that the media job market privileges those with the funds to support themselves through unpaid internships, and the connections to get those internships in the first place. Now here’s the person in charge of one of our premier liberal Web sites actually monetizing the price of access. I’m almost impressed by the vulgar audacity of it. Almost.