Cornwall ON – Nothing in this world is truly free; at least most things of value are not. The Huffington Post, one of the biggest news sites on the planet and one that was recently purchased by AOL for in excess of $300M is learning that.
The Internet success story has over 6,000 people that post pieces on a some what regulary basis without being paid. Some of those names are huge in politics and entertainment as well.
It’s unique. People submit items to media all the time with hopes of gaining exposure and that’s what most of these contributors are paid in; exposure. If you had to buy space on most media; even if you could, to platform your agenda it’d be prohibitive.
The Huffington Post turned that shared value into a mega news machine and now the knives are out after cashing in.
What’s at stake is the ability of journalists to earn an income which is threatened when media companies can simply find motivated writers on subjects that capture viewers.
For example on this site, the Cornwall Free News, we have a policy where if a columnist gets a sponsor they get half of the income. It’s not perfect, but if the media site makes money on the writer’s contribution why shouldn’t they? Like wise if the writer wants to put something out that the market doesn’t support what media company would support that for too long?
The answer to the question that is rarely asked is the whole concept of traditional journalism? I’ve heard since I’ve started is that journalists are not supposed to be biased, but I think most people put that one up there with Santa Claus and the Tooth Fairy.
“This is about supporting the quality and integrity of a vehicle for progressive expression, to actually help Huffington Post succeed, but on the right terms,” wrote the Guild. “We call on Arianna Huffington to demonstrate her commitment to the working class she so ardently champions in her writing.”
Methinks not. I’m thinking this is about cash, and lots of it that’s at stake in the news biz.
In response to the Huffington Post’s refusal to compensate its thousands of writers in the wake of its $315 million merger with AOL, the Newspaper Guild has requested a meeting with company officials to discuss ways the Huffington Post might demonstrate its commitment to quality journalism. Thus far, the request has been ignored.
and here are the demands of the “Strikers”
The Newspaper Guild and Visual Art Source urge others to join forces and no longer contribute their labor until the following demands are met:
● A pay schedule must be proposed and steps initiated to implement it for all contributing writers and bloggers; and,
● Paid promotional material must no longer be posted alongside editorial content; a press release or exhibition catalogue essay is fundamentally different from editorial content and must be either segregated and indicated as such, or not published at all.
Four things you can do NOW, if you choose to join this effort:
● Stop providing free content to Huffington Post and let your editor know you are choosing to take this action and what your demands are if he/she would like to keep you writing for HP (see above);
● Please respond and let us know you’re on board and that we are allowed to use your name in any press materials we send out regarding this strike;
● Please pass along the names and e-mail addresses of your colleagues who contribute to the Huffington Post so that we may ask for their support;
● Send a letter to your local media op-ed section letting them know how you feel about this situation.
So now it’s up to AOL and Arianna’s team to decide if they’re going to “throw a bone” to the contributors or change their biz model.
What do you think? Do you read The Huffington Post? Do you care if there are less writers? Do you care that most contributors to the site are unpaid? You can post your comments below.