Yesterday, I wrote a post titled, “Should unpaid writers for The Huffington Post go on strike?” arguing that it made sense that bloggers for The Huffington Post were unpaid because the experience gives writers exposure and access that they otherwise might not have. Working in media, art, fashion, music or filmmaking and having an fulfilling, creative job means that you likely worked for free at some point in your life. It’s a tough reality, yes. Mais c’est la vie. Also, it’s hard to ignore the fact that bloggers agree to not getting paid before they start writing.
I reached out to The Huffington Post for comment yesterday, and Mario Ruiz, the SVP of Media Relations for The Huffington Post’s Media Group responded. First, he makes the important distinction between the two levels of staff – the 160 full-time paid editors and reporters and the massive group of unpaid bloggers. Second, he reinforces my point- the bloggers aren’t crying out for cash, they’re “looking to join the party, not go home early.”
We stand squarely behind the Newspaper Guild’s mission of ensuring that media professionals receive fair compensation. It’s why we employ a newsroom of 160 full-time editors and reporters, 17 of whom we’ve hired since last Monday. However, we make a distinction between our newsroom staffers and our group bloggers – most of whom are not professional writers but come from all walks of life, from officeholders, students, and professionals to professors, entertainers, activists and heads of nonprofits.
The vast majority of our bloggers are thrilled to contribute. And we’re thrilled to have them. They flock to us — as well as to other unpaid group blogs across the web — to broadcast their views, not unlike writing an op-ed in a local paper. There’s no commitment; they can post as frequently or infrequently as they would like to. The Huffington Post makes no claim of ownership over their posts, and they can cross-post on other sites, including their own.
People blog on HuffPost for free for the same reason they go on cable TV shows every night for free: because they are passionate about their ideas, want them to be heard by the largest possible audience, and understand the value that that kind of visibility can bring. Our bloggers are repeatedly invited on TV to discuss their posts and have received everything from paid speech opportunities and book deals to a TV show (Greg Gutfeld claims he was offered his Fox show because of his writing on HuffPost).
Bottom line: nearly all of our bloggers are happy with the arrangement, and happy to access the platform and the huge audience it brings, without having to build, pay for or maintain that platform. Indeed, we are inundated with requests from people who want to blog. The proof is in the pudding: people are looking to join the party, not go home early.
It’s hard to imagine the strike being a success, particularly because it originated from an outside organization. If the strike had originated from within the group of bloggers, that would be a different story. But like Ruiz says, “the proof is in the pudding.” It seems, the passion of the bloggers lies in their fingertips, not in their dusty wallets for now.