March 18, 2011

Newspaper Guild calls for HuffPo writers to strike


Via MediaBistro, The Newspaper Guild has asked that the unpaid bloggers and writers for The Huffington Post “withhold their work in support of a strike launched by Visual Arts Source in response to the company’s practice of using unpaid labor.” The strike began when Bill Lasarow urged fellow Huffington Post writers to follow his lead and stop producing free content for the site, and for Arianna Huffington to rethink her payment policy.

From the Newspaper Guild’s press release:

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….

We feel 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 that 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….

We call on Arianna Huffington to demonstrate her commitment to the working class she so ardently champions in her writing.

Speaking about the strike at The Wrap Huffington “argued that blogging on the Huffington Post is equivalent to going on Rachel Maddow, Jon Stewart or the ‘Today’ show to promote their ideas.

And, she said, there are plenty of people willing to take their place if they do.

“The idea of going on strike when no one really notices,” Huffington said. “Go ahead, go on strike.”

Huffington said that the site employs 183 paid journalists, with generous benefits, who are assigned stories and asked to work overtime when things like the Arizona shootings or revolution in Egypt occur. The bloggers, she said, do not have those responsibilities. “It’s just absurd for me to compare the two.”

Of course, The Huffington Post has gone to great lengths to build its unpaid blogger base. Do these writers contribute to the value of the site? Do they deserve to be rewarded? Or is their reward—as it is for many writers on the internet—purely intangible?