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Media: Show us the money, say unpaid Huffington Post contributors

Huffington

Op-Ed columnist Tim Rutten took Arianna Huffington to task for HuffPo's business model (unpaid writers) after her company merged with AOL for $315 million. He wrote:

The Huffington Post is a brilliantly packaged product with a particular flair for addressing the cultural and entertainment tastes of its overwhelmingly liberal audience. To grasp its business model, though, you need to picture a galley rowed by slaves and commanded by pirates. Given the fact that its founder, Huffington, reportedly will walk away from this acquisition with a personal profit of as much as $100 million, it makes all the Post's raging against Wall Street plutocrats, crony capitalism and the Bush and Obama administrations' insensitivities to the middle class and the unemployed a bit much.

The fact is that AOL and the Huffington Post simply recapitulate in the new media many of the worst abuses of the old economy's industrial capitalism — the sweatshop, the speedup and piecework; huge profits for the owners; desperation, drudgery and exploitation for the workers. No child labor, yet, but if there were more page views in it…

One such galley slave has had it. Bill Lasarow, publisher of ArtScene and Visual Art Source, has formed a group and set out some demands. They will no longer provide free content to HuffPo. In the manifesto (via The Wrap), Lasarow says they’ll remain on strike until:

First, a pay schedule must be proposed and steps initiated to implement it for all contributing writers and bloggers. Second, 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.

Of course, what the Huffington Post hasn't forked over in terms of cash, it's made up for with what some might say is invaluable exposure  among an engaged audience, which Lasarow acknowledges. Still, he feels, the practice is unethical, especially in light of the HuffPo’s new cash flow.

It is unethical to expect trained and qualified professionals to contribute quality content for nothing. It is unethical to cannibalize the investment of other organizations who bear the cost of compensation and other overhead without payment for the usage of their content. It is extremely unethical to not merely blur but eradicate the distinction between the independent and informed voice of news and opinion and the voice of a shill.

None of this is illegal, only unethical and oh so very hypocritical, so Ms Huffington if you insist do carry on, by all means. However we are taking this action, with the full knowledge of our contributing writers and editors, in the belief that your better angels will enable you to do the right thing. We stand ready to provide whatever helpful input we can. 

RELATED:

AOL ♥ HuffPo. The loser? Journalism

The conversation: Predicting the future of journalism through the lens of the AOL-HuffPo merger

--Alexandra Le Tellier

Photo: Arianna Huffington.  Credit: Angela Weiss/Getty Images

 

Comments () | Archives (22)

The comments to this entry are closed.

Smiling

Laughed so hard I cried.

Don't forget to buy her book "“Third World America: How Our Politicians are Abandoning the Middle Class and Betraying the American Dream" I'll bet Arianna is going to share all that money with everyone who made her dream possible. Yeah, right.

jad

If you don't want to be published in the HPost, then don't write for it. You don't get paid for singing in a karaoke bar either.

Greg

I can not believe people are complaining about this; you agreed to provide content for free. That makes your contributions worthless, thus 0 is what you get. Huffington Post as a whole seems to be worth money since somebody paid for it, but individually you are all losers for creating content for free.

How freaking lame, working for free. Hey I got a great Internet idea, you pay me to write for me, then at least your content is not worthless. LOL!

Yaniv Raz

I does not surprise me that when the abuser is a millionaire company/individual the Government looks the other way. Many things that happen in this country, that I love so much, are not illegal but yes indeed they are unethical. If what Bernard Madoff said is true, banks knew what he was doing but they didn't want to know details, the looked the other way and our Government still bailed them out!

Chase Johnson

Sounds to me like Arianna made fools of all the liberal bloggers... and pocketed quite a tidy sum of cash. $100 Million isn't a bad reward for someone who energized naive zealots to work passionately for FREE!.... Great work Arianna! BE PROUD! I'm sure the Republicans would be happy to take you back anytime.

dogdave

arianna could easily give her top 100 people 100k
it would only cost her 10 million
and show her loyalty

Joe Shea

"The workman is worthy of his wages." - Luke 10:7

The American Reporter, the world's first original online daily newspaper, is almost in the same boat. While we did pay writers in our first month, we have been unable to pay any but those whose stories are sold to our handful of syndication clients.
We do pay our writers in the form of equity in future profits at the rate of a penny a word. Should we ever have a windfall from a sale, as Arianna did, the equity would be divided among the writers according to how much of the publication they have written over the past 16 years. Also, if his or her story sells to one of our handful of syndication clients, the writer gets 10% of the revenues from those sales. Two longtime Webmasters are also entitled to 10% each, and I - as editor-in-chief - am as well. As progressives who write to keep the truth before us and out there, for the most part we are not terribly worried about the money. Some of our writers contribute to our survival with contributions. And more importantly, some of our 400 owner-journalists, who have included everyone from a Nobel Laureate to Pat Buchanan (writing on his opposition to the Iraq war), have been instrumental in reshaping governments with their coverage of significant events. Syful Islam told us 10 days ahead of the coming fall of the Algerian government, as Chiranjibi Paudyal told us of the coming fall of the Nepalese government and reported from the beginning of the rise of the Maoist movement there. Stephen O'Reilly was the first to break the global story of the Good Friday cease-fire that ended 300 years of Irish civil war. Andreas Harsono won a Nieman International Fellowship for his work on the overthrow of the Suharto regime, while an Australian correspondent who wrote about the murder of six brave Australian journalists on a dock in East Timor by the Indonesian Army in 1965 won his nation's equivalent of the Pulitzer Prize. Our current chief correspondent, Randy Holhut, was the Vermont Press Assn.'s first place winner for editorial writing in 2007. We were the first publication - on our 49th day - to commit ourselves to fighting government censorship under the Communications Decency Act in the courts. We did so and got the law declared unconstitutional in Manhattan Federal court and on appeal by the government were affirmed in the US Supreme Court in June 1997. We stay true to our values of free speech, original wiring and personal politics, a mix that has served us well. We all hope the publication is never sold, windfall or not.

Granden

Only the left could be snookered by someone ad phony as Arianna and one has to laugh. If these were really journalists, they would know about how she served as a multi-million dollar cover for her gay ex until it no longer served her career. Thanks for making me laugh!

Richard Grabman

http://mexfiles.net/2008/12/31/hell-no-we-wont-go-on-global-post-huffington-post-etc/

tomdavis

My niece worked there for about a year. She and her co-workers used to call it "Arianna's sweat shop."

Paul A

Interesting. And who said unions are a bad thing. Employees must have the right to bargain with employers to get a fair wage. Huffington Post is getting richer, while the writers who contribute the substance to the organization go begging.

chuck florio

the woman is not an upfront person she pretends tha she is woman of character and she is a character. garbage in garbage out.

Jim

I don't know how anybody can consider Arianna to be a "progressive." She always seems to have looked out for her own bottom line, and had no compunctions about using content from other sites to do so. And now it seems that some of her content slaves at HP are angry, and rightfully so.

See my column about the AOL buyout:

The Great Huffington Post Exodus
http://jimlynch.com/index.php/2011/02/07/the-great-huffington-post-exodus

Mitchell Young

It's the Tom Sawyer fence painting paradigm.

http://www.landow.com/porto/tomsawyer.html

Thing is, its going to be really hard for the 'professional' content people at HP to make a dent. She'll just fill up the site with vanity pieces from celebrities like Paulina Pereskoiva (one of the better ones writers, btw). People will write for free -- it's like an addiction. Some have even been known to waste hours--totaling in the hundreds -- merely commenting on blog posts.

maandrews

"Only the left could be snookered by someone ad phony as Arianna and one has to laugh. If these were really journalists, they would know about how she served as a multi-million dollar cover for her gay ex until it no longer served her career. Thanks for making me laugh!"
Posted by: Granden

And,is being sued by co-founders of HP... kicked to the curb who got nothing as well!

bingle

all this plotting smacks of conservative plots against and Arianna that might be even more powerful and wide reaching through a revitalized AOL. i bought AOL stock. looked like a good deal to me....now just wait and see.

hartsf

Knowing Huffington's reputation, is anyone surprised that she would gladly take free journalism and sell it for her sole benefit?

Yet another example a 'compassionate liberal'.....

John Seed

It is true: if you blog for the Huffington Post you need to have an income and do it as a sideline.

That said blogging for free means that you write what you want the way you want without editors or advertisers exerting pressure, and without deadlines. One of the reasons that the Huffington Post is so dynamic is that it is a paradise for writers who are motivated by their passions and not by a paycheck.

John Seed

hairy carrion

Agreed to pay to write for free, and some who are whining about it charge their clients elitist fees for an email blast service. Hippo-fecking-critical.

hairy carrion

Agreed to pay to write for free, and some who are whining about it charge their clients elitist fees for an email blast service. Hippo-fecking-critical.

James

Lets see how much she pays in taxes to support this country.

Public Advocate

Bravo for Bill Lasarow, publisher of ArtScene and Visual Art Source.


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