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The revolt of the unpaid intern

Fed-up interns are suing their former employers for back pay, sending shock waves across the business world and leading some companies to scrap their programs. Will this bring fairness to job training — or doom a legion of unemployed college students?

CLARKE HUMPHREY’S checking account was down to its last 82 cents. The Dorchester native was in the running for a lucrative corporate PR summer internship that would have paid and even covered her housing, but instead she opted for one of journalism’s most elite opportunities: interning at Conde Nast Traveler. The glamorous magazine gig was unpaid, and unlike many of her more well-heeled peers, the Northwestern University journalism student was banking on a $3,000 Scripps Howard grant to fund her entire summer in Manhattan, bunking in an NYU dorm in Tribeca and spending the last two weeks crashing at her brother’s Lower East Side apartment. After six weeks on the job, Humphrey sold her first pitched piece for publication on the magazine’s website. As the newbie journalist recalls, it was a “monumental moment.”

Except “selling” would be a slight misnomer.

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