The Newspaper Guild reports on AOL/HuffPo:
As Huffington Post Responds to Pressure
It’s been several months since Huffington Post announced its $315 merger with AOL. In that time, The Newspaper Guild has endorsed a writers’ boycott in response to its failure to pay its many journalists.
One of our objections has been the Huffington Post’s practice of soliciting writers to cover beats, offering them “exposure” in place of a paycheck. In response, we have called on Arianna Huffington to meet with us to discuss ways to build a sustainable business model for journalism in the digital age, rather than one built on the labor of unpaid writers.
So far there has been no meeting. But interestingly, over the past two weeks, we have noticed a policy shift at the Huffington Post. Granted, the changes have been subtle, but it seems like Ms. Huffington may be taking a different approach to editorial content these days.
We have been receiving word from long-time Huffington Post bloggers that news stories containing original news reporting and fresh reaction quotes will no longer be accepted. As one editor wrote to one blogger, “blogging should take the form of opinion and commentary rather than original reporting.”
Also, when asked about editorial content, Ms. Huffington said recently at a cocktail policy, “The Huffington Post and AOL are two things: a journalistic enterprise that pays great wages and benefits, and they’re a platform. And as a platform, we are basically inviting people who want to blog and who clear the bar of quality, to blog and use that platform to disseminate their ideas, their books, their movies.”
Most recently, as part of the Huffington Post’s arrangement with AOL to develop its Patch sites, editors have put out a call for unpaid writers. But this time, they’ve been drawing a clear distinction between those who will be providing the news content and those who are weighing in.
As one editor said in the announcement, “I’ll tell you that, pretty much once I figured out who I was targeting–it’s not the journalist or even the journalist wannabe, it’s the person in the community who has opinions and wants to express them…”
The evidence suggests there has been a policy shift at the Huffington Post. It sounds as if Ms. Huffington may be attempting to redress some of her most egregious and exploitive practices at the Huffington Post, by establishing a clearer line between the journalists at Huffington Post and those promoting a product. We believe that this is in response to the writers’ boycott campaign and that Ms. Huffington has heard our message, thanks to the widespread support the Guild received from writers and labor activists, who helped get the word out to her.
Clearly, this is not enough, but it is, however, a move in the right direction. In response to these changes:
● We renew our call for Ms. Huffington to meet with us and discuss with us how the Huffington Post/Patch model can be made to promote journalism and provide a living wage for the people who work at this craft;
● We renew our call for people not to contribute to The Huffington Post without compensation;
● We urge supporters of this campaign to once again send a message to Arianna Huffington that unpaid journalism will destroy the business she is seeking to promote.
This fight has emphasized how important it is for freelancers to work together. But the Huffington Post campaign has always been just one piece of a broader mission to address the needs of freelance journalists in the digital age.
Therefore, in the coming weeks, the Newspaper Guild will be looking to begin building a series of freelance units affiliated with Local Guilds across the country. The purpose is to provide support to freelancers and help replace some of the benefits that have been lost in the wake of the economic downtown. We want to build a model for journalism in which journalists will no longer be asked to write for “exposure” rather than a fair wage. And where publishers develop a respect for the intellectual property of those who fuel their profit.
We ask freelancers from all journalistic backgrounds – print, video, photography – who are interested in continuing on this path of solidarity to join us by:
Continue to Newspaper Guild site to send a message to Arianna Huffington: