If You Think Writing For Free Undermines Your Profession, Just Don't Do It!

from the makes-me-want-to-write-for-the-huffington-post dept

I had kind of hoped we were done last month with the silly arguments about how writers should boycott writing for the Huffington Post because it doesn't pay people, when we explained how clueless the argument was. People who wrote for the Huffington Post for free did so out of their own free will. They did so for a variety of reasons, including the (free) exposure it gave their works. Assuming that any of those writers leveraged those works into greater success elsewhere (as some have), wouldn't we all think it's insane if Arianna Huffington suddenly called them up and demanded money for helping them get attention?

Of course we would. So why is anyone making the exact opposite argument? The latest is the Newspaper Guild, which should know better, but seems to be hellbent on attacking any innovative news platform that isn't a member of its old boys' club. It has called on all its members to boycott the Huffington Post with some really tortured logic. Let's dig in.
The Newspaper Guild is calling on unpaid writers of the Huffington Post to withhold their work in support of a strike launched by Visual Arts Source in response to the companyís practice or using unpaid labor. In addition, we are asking that our members and all supporters of fair and equitable compensation for journalists join us in shining a light on the unprofessional and unethical practices of this company.
Once again, "unpaid" is in the eye of the beholder. For many writers, the Huffington Post gave them a massive platform for attention, and attention is an incredibly valuable commodity. That the Newspaper Guild, of all places, doesn't understand this says some worrying things about the Newspaper Guild. As for "unprofessional and unethical," I would argue that the Newspaper Guild willfully misrepresenting the situation here is significantly more unethical and unprofessional than anything done by the Huffington Post. No one who wrote for the Huffington Post was misled about the arrangement. It's made quite clear upfront that if you're a blogger on the site, you don't get paid. You do get attention, however. It's then up to you to make the determination if it's worth it. If not, there are literally billions of other websites to go write for, or you can go create your own. Many people felt this was a fair trade: attention and platform in exchange for writing. Why claim it's unethical when so many people entered into it willingly?
Just as we would ask writers to stand fast and not cross a physical picket line, we ask that they honor this electronic picket line.
Good luck with that. The Huffington Post draws readers like almost no one else out there. If Newspaper Guild fans want to shut themselves off from that traffic firehose, that's their decision, just like it was their decision to use that firehose for free to get attention to their work.
In response to the Huffington Postís 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.
This is the part that bugs me the most. The whole $315 million merger bit is a total red herring, used to drum up emotion, but is meaningless. Again, would the Newspaper Guild support Arianna in asking someone who became successful, in part, by writing for the HuffPo for a cut of their earnings? Or, if the Huffington Post had run out of money, would the Guild have supported a request that the writers help hand over money to keep it running? Of course not. The investors and founders of the Huffington Post put the money in and took the risk. And they got rewarded for it. The writers did not. They didn't put their own money or equity on the line. They got the benefit of those who did. To then demand a piece of the $315 million suggests a complete misunderstanding of how basic capitalism works.
As Cherie Turner, one of the former writers, explained, "Certainly, we all have written for free for the great exposure the Huffington Post can give us, but what's the cost? Those of us on strike feel it undermines the value of our profession and is unethical, especially in light of great profits by those at the top. We are only asking for a fair share of what we are helping to create. We are also speaking out against real journalism being run side-by-side with advertorial.

"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.
In other words, Turner and her group want to get double paid. They know the deal they made: to get exposure. But apparently now that's not enough. They want to get paid for the exposure they got as well? And if they didn't get their "fair share" then why did Turner and her friends write for HuffPo in the first place? It's like the Newspaper Guild is flat out admitting that it's completely clueless on basic economics.

Honestly, I get two key urges out of this move by the Newspaper Guild: (1) figure out if there's any way to "short" the Newspaper Guild for pure economic cluelessness and (2) suddenly I feel like writing for the Huffington Post in protest against those who are now "boycotting." Oh, and one final point: it's not a boycott. It just means you're turning down the traffic that HuffPo gave you. I'm sure HuffPo can survive fine without you. Whether or not you can survive without that attention... well, we'll see.


Reader Comments (rss)

(Flattened / Threaded)

  1.  
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    rw (profile), Mar 21st, 2011 @ 7:55am

    Getting paid

    Wait a minute, what about all those poor underpaid IT people who support the systems that allow those writers to post their stuff?

     

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    Anonymous Coward, Mar 21st, 2011 @ 8:41am

    Lets abolition, or substantially alleviate, copy'rights' and patents. If this results in newspapers going away, that will save trees. If it results in Windows no longer being created, it will save blue screens of death. Whatever doomsday scenario IP maximists can think of, so be it, I'll live with it. Who here agrees?

     

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  3.  
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    Jaws4theRevenge (profile), Mar 21st, 2011 @ 8:52am

    Re:

    I think the topic you're looking for is that way --->

     

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    scarr (profile), Mar 21st, 2011 @ 8:55am

    Lose-lose

    They feel it's unethical to write for it, and I feel guilty for reading it for free. Damn you, internet culture, and your open exchange of ideas!

    (If you read this, please contact me for my PayPal info, otherwise I couldn't live with myself for sharing my techno-angst.)

     

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  5.  
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    freak (profile), Mar 21st, 2011 @ 9:00am

    Re: Lose-lose

    You beat me to the punch for combining those two headlines. I was gonna feel guilty for writing for free.

     

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    langdang, Mar 21st, 2011 @ 9:06am

    this comes as digg is dying

     

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    Anonymous Coward, Mar 21st, 2011 @ 9:09am

    Re:

    No surprise, there: digg is run by incompetent noobs who have expended massive energy on blinky light gizmos and self-hype instead of on the basics -- including figuring out when their own comments system has been quite thoroughly gamed. It deserves to die, it needs to die, and good riddance to it.

     

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    slacker525600 (profile), Mar 21st, 2011 @ 9:10am

    I dont know if I believe this one

    "there are literally billions of other websites to go write for"

     

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    Marcus Carab (profile), Mar 21st, 2011 @ 9:12am

    This is why I always tell people not to go to journalism school, to just start blogging instead and reading everything they can get their hands on. The "trained professionals" are "boycotting" the best platforms in the world: it's time for amateur takeover hour.

     

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    Anonymous Coward, Mar 21st, 2011 @ 9:14am

    Arianna Huffington figured out how to make millions without paying anybody. Sounds like a Chinese business model.

     

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    Hiiragi Kagami (profile), Mar 21st, 2011 @ 9:14am

    This is confusing.

    Read stuff on the Huffington Post, for free, and walk away with a sense of knowledge.

    Read stuff written and *paid* for by the Newspaper Guild, and walk away carrying ignorance.

    Interesting.

    Certainly sheds new light on the phrase "intellectual property".

     

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    Call me Al, Mar 21st, 2011 @ 9:15am

    Retrospectively changing the deal

    The other part of this that I don't like is the idea of seeking to retrospectively change agreements. Those writers knew the deal when they signed up so it was clearly good enough for them then.

    If they don't like it anymore then that is fine. They can chooose to either cease to write for the Huffington Post or request payment for any future work. Of course the Post is then at liberty to laugh in their faces and instead pick up another of the many writers who are clamouring to get work on the site and who aren't demanding payment.

    I think those writers are tacitly acknowledging that fact. They know the Post won't pay them because they don't need to and they know there is no real commercial reason for the Post to pay them. They've decided instead to scream about morals and ethics in an attempt to cloud the issue and make it seem that the Huffington Post has been operating some kind of sweatshop for bloggers.

     

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    Don DeBold (profile), Mar 21st, 2011 @ 9:15am

    Getting paid for work

    I wonder if any of the various professional photography associations will take notice of this, think it's a good idea, and ask people to boycott posting their photos on Flickr under the Creative Commons license. After all, those photos are getting used for free....and dang it, that's just got to stop! It's a new world and these folks need to learn to adapt.

     

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    Marcus Carab (profile), Mar 21st, 2011 @ 9:17am

    Re: I dont know if I believe this one

    yeah, I guess 'literally' shouldn't be taken literally there...

    Technorati counts 100-million+ blogs, so even if they are vastly undercounting and you include "non-blog" websites, I doubt the total comes out to 20 times that number.

    the point remains sound though: it's an open playing field

     

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    Marcus Carab (profile), Mar 21st, 2011 @ 9:21am

    Re: Getting paid for work

    It's weird how photographers tend to be one of the most volatile and vocal groups whenever it is suggested that free doesn't hurt them too much. I think the reason is that photography is one of those fields a lot of people don't fully appreciate - they think they can take a photo just as well as the professional, or they think that the only difference is equipment and not talent. So photographers are pretty defensive about anything they feel weakens the hard-to-maintain shrine of professional photography.

     

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    Marcus Carab (profile), Mar 21st, 2011 @ 9:22am

    Re:

    please be joking please be joking please be joking...

     

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    Anonymous Coward, Mar 21st, 2011 @ 9:31am

    Re: Re:

    1. She made millions.
    2. She didn't pay anybody.
    3. The Chinese make millions and don't pay anybody.

    ok, maybe the Chinese pay like a dime a day. You got me there.

     

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    CommonSense (profile), Mar 21st, 2011 @ 9:32am

    Re: I dont know if I believe this one

    You don't have to believe it... You can go start your own if you'd rather.

     

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    Call me Al, Mar 21st, 2011 @ 9:36am

    Re: Re: Getting paid for work

    Photography is certainly something that has opened up enormously in the last few years with the rise of the Digital Camera. I've lost track of the number of amazing photos I have seen by talented amateurs. These are often uploaded for free somewhere (perhaps under Creative Commons) because they frankly just want to show off and don't make a living from the photo.

    Now it could be that the picture isn't as good as a professional would have done but if its close enough then the companies who pick up pictures from the web will likely choose the free one. They'll go for slightly worse and free over better and costly. It isn't even just about the money, it is simpler to go for worse and free as you won't have the administrative burden of getting payments made.

     

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    ALANTONE (profile), Mar 21st, 2011 @ 9:36am

    Not Crossing the ePicket Line

    I will not cross the e-Picket line, I promise not to write a single work for free ... oops ... just broke the ePicket line, darn.

     

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    Anonymous Coward, Mar 21st, 2011 @ 9:36am

    Seems like a pretty traditional role of a guild/union. If "capital" isn't paying "labor" what labor wants, call for a boycott until they do.

    Non-union steel mill workers were going to work of their own free will and getting benefits from it, but they wanted to get better benefits, so they formed a union.

    I don't think it's going to be particularly effective in this case.

     

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    Anonymous Coward, Mar 21st, 2011 @ 9:37am

    Re:

    Sounds more like your average pirate software site. You know, the ones that Techdirt "doesn't support".

     

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    Anonymous Coward, Mar 21st, 2011 @ 9:37am

    Re:

    ...except that HuffPo caters to an audience that is probably more sympathetic to unions than the average bear. So maybe if they play that aspect up they'll get some concession.

     

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    ChurchHatesTucker (profile), Mar 21st, 2011 @ 9:41am

    The Newspaper Guild is calling on unpaid writers of the Huffington Post to withhold their work in support of a strike launched by Visual Arts Source in response to the companyís practice or using unpaid labor.

    The Guild should put a call out for editors.

     

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    ChurchHatesTucker (profile), Mar 21st, 2011 @ 9:47am

    Re: Re: Re: Getting paid for work

    Photography is the golf of the arts. Anyone can make a great shot; it's doing it consistently that separates the pros from the hackers.

    Also, the reason photogs are the biggest complainers about copyright is because their art is the closest to mechanical reproduction (And often is just that. See the Smithsonian trying to claim copyright over photographs of public domain photographs a few years ago.)

     

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    Marcus Carab (profile), Mar 21st, 2011 @ 9:49am

    Re: Re: Re:

    Firstly, she paid plenty of people. A huge development and design time, a huge ad sales team spanning the country, a long roster of editors and curators, plenty of accountants and financial officers, some lawyers, HR people, assistants and more. It's still a damn company.

    Secondly, as this post points out several times, there are other kinds of benefits than money. Did you know that most (probably all) career bloggers make more money from speaking engagements and consulting contracts than they do from ad revenue or paid postings? Huffington Post provides the exposure for someone to build a career around their insight and viewpoints, and in return they get to use those insights and viewpoints to build the audience further - which benefits them with ad revenue, and benefits the writers with even more exposure. It's a beautifully symbiotic relationship, and nobody is being exploited. If they were, do you think so many people would voluntarily write for HuffPo?

     

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    Anonymous Coward, Mar 21st, 2011 @ 9:55am

    Some people work really hard to make themselves irrelevant. I'm sure there are plenty of people out their willing to fill in the "strikers" writing spots with content equal in quality. And then, the new writers will have a larger audience because I'm sure more people will go check out Huffington Post's website that never have before just due to all the controversy.

     

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    Anonymous Coward, Mar 21st, 2011 @ 9:56am

    Re: Getting paid for work

    I read an article a while ago that talks a bit about this sort of thing. Apparently in the photography world there has been some issues cropping up with folks taking legitimately copyrighted images and uploading them to a flickr account which will (apparently by default - don't know as I don't use flickr) replace any existing copyright info with a CC license. Several businesses that have taken these CC images for use have ended up getting burned by the *actual* copyright holder. Now, many of those businesses have sworn off CC licensed works altogether, and will only purchase from places like Getty.

    It's a shame since CC licensing is a good model for folks who just want to get there stuff out there and aren't looking for compensation.

     

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  29.  
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    Boost, Mar 21st, 2011 @ 10:00am

    Re: Re: Lose-lose

    You just did...

     

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  30.  
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    Tim K (profile), Mar 21st, 2011 @ 10:01am

    I've already got my lawsuit lined up for when Craigslist goes public. I want my share of the Billions for all the free content I wrote for them.

     

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    CK (profile), Mar 21st, 2011 @ 10:05am

    Where's My Cut?

    As a reader of HuffPo I certainly deserve a cut of the $315 million as well. Without me there would be less of an audience and it would therefore be less valuable. I give a lot of time and attention to reading and my time is valuable dammit! I demand my cut because someone else profited from my time and energy off of something I helped create. I expect to be repaid quickly or the internet should band together to picket HuffPo.

     

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    coldbrew, Mar 21st, 2011 @ 10:13am

    It's like "Canada on strike" all over again. Let's see if this pans out using market forces instead of the government.

     

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    Marcus Carab (profile), Mar 21st, 2011 @ 10:15am

    Re:

    I'm not your buddy, guy!

     

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    ChronoFish (profile), Mar 21st, 2011 @ 10:18am

    Has nothing to do wiith writing - just another Union

    So they call it a "guild". It's a Union. One of the safest, cushiest, jobs on the planet - for some reason, needs a Union?

    We all know what Unions hate. Self-made (wo)men. The person who knows their own value, who can think for themselves, and who are willing to "give" when no one else is giving or hold-back when everyone else is pandering - those are, in the eyes of the Union, the scrounge of the Earth.

    The self-made (wo)man can write for the HP and catapult their career to new heights - all for the time it takes to write a couple of damn-good articles.

    The unionist can't do this. Won't do this. They will write when told to write, and won't when told not to - all for a common wage. Because the unionist doesn't know how to market themselves, don't know their value, and don't want to take the risk.

    In their eyes it's *unfair* that others have more talent - or worse, less talent at writing, but more talent at marketing, and somehow stumble into fame and fortune.

    Why was their a guild? To protect the writers from the big-bad newspaper owners. Why was their a guild? Because the writers couldn't - or weren't willing - to walk away from the newspapers. They weren't willing to stand up for what they were worth - they didn't know what they were worth. They had to rely on the Union (guild) to do that for them.

    This is true for every Union. When people are willing to work a low wage for a hard/backbreaking/dangerous job - the Union is there to protect them. Because they can't, on their own, walk away.

    -CF

     

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    Nick Dynice (profile), Mar 21st, 2011 @ 10:20am

    Look at this! The Newspaper Guild has interns who write for them, win an award, and dosen't get paid! http://www.newsguild.org/index.php?ID=3144 I wonder why he agreed to this.

     

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    Jason Still (profile), Mar 21st, 2011 @ 10:26am

    We feel it is unethical to expect trained and qualified professionals to contribute quality content for nothing.

    There are a lot of charities that might not be too keen on being called "unethical" simply because they accept donated time, effort, and content in order to help them earn money for their causes.

     

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    coldbrew, Mar 21st, 2011 @ 10:37am

    Re: Re:

    I'm not your friend, buddeh!

     

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    Hephaestus (profile), Mar 21st, 2011 @ 10:45am

    Re: Re:

    Probably not, you would have people like me crossing the picket line. And perhaps, just maybe, push HuffPo in a less liberal direction :)

     

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    Eugene (profile), Mar 21st, 2011 @ 10:48am

    Re: I dont know if I believe this one

    At the rate things are going, it won't take long for that statement to become literal.

     

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    Anonymous Coward, Mar 21st, 2011 @ 10:53am

    Re: Re: Re: Re:

    I'm not saying I fault her for doing what she did in the least. She had a good idea- aggregating other people's content, adding some commentary, and made bank on it. Good for her. On a smaller scale it's how this site functions also.

    If the sites whose content is being aggregated give it away for free, they can't really complain.

     

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    Hephaestus (profile), Mar 21st, 2011 @ 10:55am

    Re: Re: Re: Re: Getting paid for work

    "Photography is the golf of the arts. Anyone can make a great shot; it's doing it consistently that separates the pros from the hackers."

    Expanding on that, with digital cameras, and the law of averages. All you need to do is take enough pictures and you become a professional photographer. :)

     

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    Marcus Carab (profile), Mar 21st, 2011 @ 10:56am

    Re: Re: Re: Re: Re:

    I took it from your comparison to the Chinese "paying a dime a day" that you felt HuffPo is exploiting people.

     

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    Eugene (profile), Mar 21st, 2011 @ 11:03am

    I hate having the dissenting view here, but does the Huffington Post really not have any staff writers? Are they all, entirely, unpaid? Because I can understand having a news site where the majority of your writing team is unpaid. I don't see a problem with that...as long as you *do* have a smaller team of paid writers you can rely on and who - merit wise - represent the best of the group.

    But to have a publication where everyone is always unpaid no matter what? Even by mutual agreement, that feels kind of...exploitative.

     

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    ChurchHatesTucker (profile), Mar 21st, 2011 @ 11:06am

    Re: Re: Re: Re: Re: Getting paid for work

    True--see all the amateur first-person footage that's become part and parcel of new reports these days. But it helps your submissions if you can tell the difference b/t a good shot and a crappy one (and a crappy one that's valuable because it's the only one.)

     

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    hmm (profile), Mar 21st, 2011 @ 11:07am

    Shill bot ONLINE.......

    "every free word you post to huffpo is a lost saleable word"

    [beep]
    We count 300 trillion words, therefore that is $1 lost per word, so huffpo now owes [beep] $300 trillion dollars....

    We will accept payment by visa,mastercard, paypal or the souls of your unborn children.....[beep]

     

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  46.  
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    Nick Dynice (profile), Mar 21st, 2011 @ 11:16am

    Re:

    I hate having the dissenting view here, but does anyone GM, Ford, or Chrysler know the first thing about how to make a wagon wheel?

     

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    Eugene (profile), Mar 21st, 2011 @ 11:37am

    Re: Re:

    I don't think that analogy works here. Regardless what GM, Ford, or Chrysler know how to make, they still pay people to make it, right? And they can't ALL be interns...right? Or more aptly - would you be okay with knowing they were?

     

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    Anonymous Coward, Mar 21st, 2011 @ 11:39am

    Re: Re: Re: Re: Re: Re:

    Exploiting isn't really the right word.

    But it's clear one person got very rich and everybody else got squat. That's America for ya.

    Or China. The two can be much more alike than most people realize.

     

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    Eugene (profile), Mar 21st, 2011 @ 11:47am

    Re: Re:

    Or are you suggesting that agreeing to not pay your employees is the business model of the future?

    It's certainly not as unethical as the news guild is pretending it to be, since I'm sure the arrangement was mutually agree on...but should we really be fine with the idea of creating a culture where wanting to make money for your work is stigmatized in favor of "popularity"? Because that's where this notion is headed and the truth is, VERY few people know or understand how to leverage popularity into profit.

    In fact, I'd say it's a ability which honestly has nothing to do with any other abilities. So in other words, you end up with a lot of talented people who might become popular, but still end up dropping out of the career path because they don't have the ability to make money from it. In effect punishing brilliant minds for not being brilliant at this specific unrelated thing. Talent vanishes, quality drops, and all you're left with are a bunch of egotistical hacks who are better at leveraging eyeballs into cash than they are at writing a decent article.

     

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    ChronoFish (profile), Mar 21st, 2011 @ 11:48am

    Re:

    I don't know if there is a paid editorial team, but they are essentially hand-picking from (I assume) submitted stories and RSS Feeds, including embedding remote video content.

    See the Steven Colbert take on the HuffPo
    http://www.colbertnation.com/ColbuffingtonRe-post
    and their response
    http://www.huffingtonpost.com/huffbertnation/

    Which really should be an post from Mike (maybe there is a TD article about it, but I missed it) about how two multi-hundred-million dollar mavericks have fun with each rather than suing - and driving more traffic (revenue) to boot.


    -CF

     

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  51.  
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    PaulT (profile), Mar 21st, 2011 @ 12:07pm

    Re: Re:

    "Sounds more like your average pirate software site.

    Are you saying that a site that allows people to read news & commentary for free is the same as illegally distributing copyrighted content? Really?

    "You know, the ones that Techdirt "doesn't support"."

    That's right, they don't, and nor do I. Criticism of the mistakes of the content industry is not the same as supporting those who violate their copyright.

    You may need to work on your critical thinking skills, they seem faulty.

     

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    Marcus Carab (profile), Mar 21st, 2011 @ 12:22pm

    Re: Re: Re: Re: Re: Re: Re:

    They didn't get squat. They got exposure. If you don't value exposure, fine - don't write for HuffPo. They do, so they do.

     

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  53.  
    identicon
    Anonymous Coward, Mar 21st, 2011 @ 12:47pm

    Re: Re: Re: Re: Re: Re:

    They are exploiting people. And that's fine!

     

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  54.  
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    Anonymous Coward, Mar 21st, 2011 @ 12:50pm

    Re:

    When you've got people willingly lining up for the opportunity to be exploited in that way, I don't think the exploitaion can be all bad.

     

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  55.  
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    ChronoFish (profile), Mar 21st, 2011 @ 12:56pm

    Re: Re:

    Is it even called being "exploited" at that point?

    -CF

     

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  56.  
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    Aerilus, Mar 21st, 2011 @ 12:59pm

    Re: Retrospectively changing the deal

    I am not saying that I don't agree that they shoulden't get paid. but I can see a little of their viewpoint I would be upset if I were helping to build the community of a non profit site or at least a non-profit site in my mind. People IMO are more apt to pitch in and contribute when the people at the top are pouring there heart and soul into something and need some help. kind of like this site. If you were contributing to this site heavily because you shared the viewpoints and wanted to be heard with the understanding strictly strictly on your part that the owner was making a little on ads but that was it then found out that the site was sold for 315 million to a corporate entity who doesn't share the dedication of the current owner and probably shares the exact opposite viewpoints. wouldn't you be pissed. wouldn't that change how you viewed Techdirt and your contributions to it. I am just saying maybe the bloggers didn't quite know what they thought they knew about the Huntington post and how it operated.

     

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  57.  
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    Anonymous Coward, Mar 21st, 2011 @ 2:10pm

    Re: Re: Re:

    1. To employ to the greatest possible advantage: exploit one's talents.
    2. To make use of selfishly or unethically: a country that exploited peasant labor. See Synonyms at manipulate.
    3. To advertise; promote.

    It's exploitation, even if it doesn't meet all possible definitions of exploitation. I think most people use the term to refer to things they just don't personally like and want to cast in a bad light.

     

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  58.  
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    DV Henkel-Wallace (profile), Mar 21st, 2011 @ 3:04pm

    Logical implication

    Hmm, if you write without cash renumeration you are being exploited. Thus if a Newspaper Guild member (who covers international news) sees the house next door burning down, he or she shouldn't write a blog entry, much less an article about it, unless payment will result. That would be devaluing the service.

     

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  59.  
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    Rebecca Rosen Lum (profile), Mar 21st, 2011 @ 4:09pm

    Mike, you're guilt of selective perception here. The water flows two ways: Some of those bloggers, don't forget, are respected professionals who lent their veracity to a start-up they believed in and brought barnloads of traffic its way, helping to make it a $315 million enterprise. So who owes who here?

    Secondly, many of the Huffington Post bloggers were led to believe they would be paid. Visit Facebook.com/heyarianna for specifics.

    Unpaid commentary by those who feel passionately about an issue, a program, or a piece of legislation is not new to the news biz. Broadcast news makes room for guest editorials; newspapers have run op-eds and letters to the editor.

    But the Huffington Post is another animal entirely. We're talking about an aggregator that was built on the unpaid labor of others -- and no, Mike, most of those people did not get themselves a windfall in book sales and TV shows like the Huffington Post's spokesman suggests. Many are independent journalists, involuntarily unmoored from their jobs in American newsrooms, keeping their hands in and hoping more work leads to more work.

    Huffington is doing what many online aggregators and web publishers are doing these days: Taking advantage of the glut in independent journalists by offering little or no compensation.

    Incidentally, our members work in multi-media, online journalism, video, audio, photography, design and more, and have launched innovative news nonprofits that have picked up investigative journalism where print moguls abandoned it. The characterization of the Guild as an "old boys' network" of luddites is off the mark.

     

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  60.  
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    Nick Dynice (profile), Mar 21st, 2011 @ 4:19pm

    Re: Re: Re:

    People need to learn new skills like how to leverage their popularity into paid gigs. The market demands it. You could make the same case for an artists. They need to figure out how to make things that people will pay for if they want to make money from it. They might do work for free for exposure. They might intern. They might take a class and actually have to pay to get experience, not get paid.

    Why do writers need to learn how to use a computer or type? I'd say it's a ability which honestly has nothing to do with any other abilities. /sarcasm

    Why does a company need to have employees who do work when others will do it for free? The people doing it for free know that there are other benefits, and are thus compelled to do it for free.

    Why are you commenting here on Techdirt adding content for free? Why do you want to take jobs away from what could be paid professional Techdirt commenters? Where are your morals? /sarcasm

     

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  61.  
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    bob, Mar 21st, 2011 @ 4:46pm

    I thought it was cool to expect money eventually

    Once again Mike is moving the goal post. It used to be cool to give stuff away for free because it built a reputation and eventually enough connecting with fans would lead to getting a real salary. Now, it seems we're all supposed to wait a bit longer for the money.

    (BTW, I like how he's taking the side of big business here because I'm sure he dreams of selling out just like Ariana. And if that time comes, he's not sharing with us or anyone. These posts just indicate his plans.)

     

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  62.  
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    PaulT (profile), Mar 21st, 2011 @ 5:14pm

    "Now, it seems we're all supposed to wait a bit longer for the money."

    Huh?

    "I like how he's taking the side of big business here because I'm sure he dreams of selling out just like Ariana. "

    Ah, baseless conspiracy theories and faulty reasoning presented as fact. Just your style, from what I've seen recently.

    "And if that time comes, he's not sharing with us or anyone."

    So? Stop writing if you don't like it. I'm sure you could do something you can get paid for with the time you spend spreading nonsense on here.

     

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  63.  
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    nasch (profile), Mar 21st, 2011 @ 7:53pm

    Re: Re: Retrospectively changing the deal

    wouldn't you be pissed. wouldn't that change how you viewed Techdirt and your contributions to it.

    Perhaps so, but I certainly wouldn't think I should have gotten paid for what I wrote earlier knowing I wouldn't get paid for it.

     

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  64.  
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    nasch (profile), Mar 21st, 2011 @ 8:14pm

    Re:

    The water flows two ways: Some of those bloggers, don't forget, are respected professionals who lent their veracity to a start-up they believed in and brought barnloads of traffic its way, helping to make it a $315 million enterprise. So who owes who here?

    Why would anybody owe anything? If the company you work for goes public and the owner makes a billion dollars, do you demand a cut for helping build up the business? Of course not. You agreed to work for a certain salary. Why is the situation different when the agreed-upon salary is zero?

    Secondly, many of the Huffington Post bloggers were led to believe they would be paid. Visit Facebook.com/heyarianna for specifics.

    There are a ton of comments on that page and I only read a smattering, but I didn't see anybody making this claim. Got anything specific? If true, it would definitely be a totally different story.

    Many are independent journalists, involuntarily unmoored from their jobs in American newsrooms, keeping their hands in and hoping more work leads to more work.

    Huffington is doing what many online aggregators and web publishers are doing these days: Taking advantage of the glut in independent journalists by offering little or no compensation.


    So you believe they should pay something other than the market rate for writers? If supply goes up, shouldn't the price go down? That certainly happened in my field; there's nothing unique about journalism there.

    If the writers don't like the situation in their field, they should find another one. Yes it sucks, but with so many journalists out of work, a boycott is not going to do anything to HP.

     

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  65.  
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    Anonymous Coward, Mar 21st, 2011 @ 9:40pm

    Re: This is confusing.

    "If you don't read the newspaper, you are uninformed. If you do read the newspaper, you are misinformed."

    -Unknown ~Mark twain or Thomas Jefferson (?)

     

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  66.  
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    Anonymous Coward, Mar 21st, 2011 @ 9:46pm

    Re: I thought it was cool to expect money eventually

    meh, he could sell this now, when it's right near the top of its value, and it still wouldn't be enough to retire on. So I don't think that's his plan.

     

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  67.  
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    Anonymous Coward, Mar 21st, 2011 @ 9:56pm

    Re: Re: Getting paid for work

    This is just another reason why IP needs to be abolished. Our system is so messed up that the wrong people end up getting blamed for infringement when the person who should get blamed is probably the copy'right' holder for uploading that picture in the first place and later deciding to sue whoever was mislead into thinking it was released under a CC license. The intent is exactly to deter the creation of CC works, if everyone is afraid to use CC works it will give the works, and hence the authors, less exposure and that will deter such creation. Our system is designed to deter the creation of free content, intentionally so. Big corporations are given monopoly privileges over public airwaves (which prevents others from using them to gain exposure), restaurants and other venues are afraid to have independent artists because then they have to pay some irrelevant third party a fee or else potentially face an expensive lawsuit. Our legal system encourages this sort of nonsense and it encourages this exactly to deter the creation of free content so that monopolists with campaign contribution money can wrongfully sell their content at monopoly prices with less competition. Worst of all copy'right' is opt out. People who are told that something is permissibly licensed may later find out that it's not because there is no central database to look it up. People are expected to be psychic and automatically know.

    IP has long been abused, we just need to abolish it because it encourages this nonsense. It deters independents from creating content because others are too afraid to consume that content in fear that they might infringe on someone, and without consumption there is less production since people produce content so that it can be consumed.

    Alternatively, sites could ask for proof of identification from the content uploaders so that at least we know who uploaded a piece of content with the claim that it's released under a CC license. Or maybe it can link back to a website, some way of tracing the content back to the uploader. But that's too much work and adds too much inefficiency, lets just abolish copy'right' altogether.

     

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  68.  
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    Anonymous Coward, Mar 21st, 2011 @ 9:58pm

    Re: Re: Re: Getting paid for work

    It deters independents from creating free content *

     

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  69.  
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    Mike Masnick (profile), Mar 21st, 2011 @ 10:36pm

    Re:

    Some of those bloggers, don't forget, are respected professionals who lent their veracity to a start-up they believed in and brought barnloads of traffic its way, helping to make it a $315 million enterprise. So who owes who here?

    No one owes anyone anything. Did they have stock options or stock grants? No? Then, sorry, you get nothing from the sale. Welcome to how the world works.

    Again, how would you feel if someone did get additional work from their HuffPo work and Arianna asked them for a cut? You'd claim it was crazy, right? Because it is. Yet here you are doing the same thing.

    Even worse, you're completely conflating the money earned for the equity with revenue. Someone who doesn't understand the two things shouldn't be spouting off on issues like this.

    Secondly, many of the Huffington Post bloggers were led to believe they would be paid. Visit Facebook.com/heyarianna for specifics.

    I just wasted a good 15 minutes on that page and see no such claims. I see a lot of clueless people whining about that which they don't understand, whipped into a pointless frenzy by people who seem to understand things even less.

    But the Huffington Post is another animal entirely. We're talking about an aggregator that was built on the unpaid labor of others -- and no, Mike, most of those people did not get themselves a windfall in book sales and TV shows like the Huffington Post's spokesman suggests.

    I never made such a suggestion, so don't paint me with that brush. However, those who did contribute did so *OF THEIR OWN FREE WILL* with the terms of the deal clear, and they accepted it.

    To go back afterwards and demand a retroactive change in the deal is immoral at best.

    Huffington is doing what many online aggregators and web publishers are doing these days: Taking advantage of the glut in independent journalists by offering little or no compensation.

    Oh bullshit. They took advantage of no one. Everyone knew the deal going in. Pretending that anyone here was taken advantage of is pure bunk.

    Incidentally, our members work in multi-media, online journalism, video, audio, photography, design and more, and have launched innovative news nonprofits that have picked up investigative journalism where print moguls abandoned it. The characterization of the Guild as an "old boys' network" of luddites is off the mark.

    Where you work says nothing. Your actions say everything. You're a bunch of luddites if you think that this "strike" makes sense.

    If Techdirt ever sells are you going to come demanding money for your comment?

     

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  70.  
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    NoName, Mar 23rd, 2011 @ 10:39pm

    Re: Re: Getting paid for work

    This is baloney. I have had a Flickr acct for several years, and CC is NOT the default setting.

     

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  71.  
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    John Myste, Mar 26th, 2011 @ 11:00am

    Correlation to Fiction

    Some writers seek to be published in literary fiction journals. Most of them do not pay, but some do.

    Some of those that don't are as highly sought out and some of those that do. Even the highest paying ones, like Tin House, which pays around 800.00 max per long high-quality article, do not pay that much.

    Space is limited in these journals and financial rewards are slight, but you do get publicity, which is what every writer wants. Publicity is payment.

    The question of whether the Huffington Post should pay its writers on an honor system is a good one. However, they are not obligated and it is an honor for their writers to write there, which is why they do it. The relationship is symbiotic, despite the disparity in monetary rewards.

    If the Huffington Post is implying that there will be a future reward, then that is definitely wrong, unless they keep their commitment. However, to the degree that it makes no such promise, it is not doing anything inappropriate, any more than any well-respected print literary journal is.

    If you have one million people standing in line trying to write for you, why would you feel that it is your obligation to pay the ones you selected? If anything, shouldn't you pay the poor folks who were not chosen, and so got nothing at all?

     

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  72.  
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    Bill Jackson (profile), Mar 26th, 2011 @ 6:23pm

    Introductions all round

    Strange, the journal publishers have a different situation. Have a look here.
    http://www.techdirt.com/articles/20110323/02473713592/cornell-library-rejects-non-disclosures -journal-pricing-will-reveal-all-prices.shtml

    So there some sort of convergence going on here?

     

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  73.  
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    Allan Masri (profile), Mar 27th, 2011 @ 8:08am

    Re: Re:

    Come on Mike, aren't you being a little harsh? Immoral? Not at all. These people are trying to get some money for their labor. Nothing immoral about that. It's the American way. Just the way the Koch brothers want to get some value for the money they spent on political races. There was no contract. They were made no promises. But they do get repaid. That's the way the system works.

    The people who helped build Huffington Post were dumb and trusting. They assumed that their interests would matter when they contributed to the enterprise. It's not immoral to ask for a piece of the pie when the company is liquidated.

    Your position seems to be that dumb and trusting people deserve to get screwed. You pretend that exposure is as good as a paycheck. Let me assure you, it is not. People may not be clever enough to parlay a couple of bylines into a career. That does not mean they deserve to be thrown under the bus.

    The people who created the HuffingtonPost are immoral, because the got theirs and told everyone else to take a hike. People need to have consideration for their fellows. Without humanity there is no human race, just a rat race.

     

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  74.  
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    misterdoug (profile), Mar 27th, 2011 @ 10:28am

    Traditional media sticks together

    The Guild's arguments are reminiscent of Microsoft and other software companies attacking the concept of free software as the end of life as we know it, the RIAA attacking freely distributed music as the end of life as we know it, business people attacking any sort of government regulation as the end of life as we know it, etc. I always smell fear when these things come up.

     

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  75.  
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    nasch (profile), Mar 28th, 2011 @ 6:39am

    Re: Re: Re:

    Your position seems to be that dumb and trusting people deserve to get screwed.

    No, his point is that following through on a deal where everybody gets what they were promised isn't "getting screwed".

    You pretend that exposure is as good as a paycheck. Let me assure you, it is not. People may not be clever enough to parlay a couple of bylines into a career. That does not mean they deserve to be thrown under the bus.

    Then they should not have accepted the deal! Is McDonald's throwing their employees under the bus because they can't make ends meet on minimum wage?

    The people who created the HuffingtonPost are immoral, because the got theirs and told everyone else to take a hike.

    So every time a business is sold, the money should be divided up among everyone that business has ever employed, and anything else is immoral? This is exactly like any other business sale. People have gotten the salaries they were promised - some zero, some more than that. Why do the people getting one agreed-upon salary deserve to now get more than that since the business was sold?

    People need to have consideration for their fellows. Without humanity there is no human race, just a rat race.

    I agree, but this it would have been a generous thing to pass along some money to people who weren't promised any. Not something that's morally required.

     

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  76.  
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    Lorraine Devon Wilke (profile), May 15th, 2011 @ 5:53pm

    Huff Post boycott

    I once knew an artist who made jewelry. She sold it every which way she could: online, at art shows, in private homes, etc., but the Emerald City of opportunity was the huge world-famous flea market set up each month at one of the city's biggest sports stadiums...to get in there was a coup. You had to pay for the space, yes, but then it was your concession; you sold what you wanted, you kept your profits, you could sell or not sell but the space was yours to use as you saw fit...AND it could not be overstated how much you benefitted from the gargantuan promotional heft of that famous flea market, which reached out to thousands more people than a single artist could ever do on their own. Win/win.

    Welcome to the arrangement made with The Huffington Post bloggers. Like that artist, every writer who blogs at the Post benefits immensely from having a "concession stand" set up in the parking lot, so to speak, of the global brand that is the Huffington Post...and we don't even have to pay for our little spot in the lot! We are told from the get-go: this is your page, your blog; do with it what you will. Write what you like, as often or as little as you like; beyond minor editing oversight it's up to you to say what you will. There is no fee AND you get to ride on the enormous wave of publicity, exposure and audience reach that comes with being on the Huffington Post. Win/win.

    But these boycotting, lawsuit filing, ex-bloggers now demand that we market-destroying, scabbing, strike-busting writers who were invited to set up our personal blogs at the Post are supposed to boycott and complain and bitch about how unfair it all is because, as you point out, the investors who put up millions to make this online paper as hugely successful as it is sold it and made some money?? Really? Cuz I didn't take any risks and I wasn't promised something that wasn't delivered and I don't feel anybody owes me anything for putting my concession stand in the Huff Post parking lot. I'm damn happy to be there.

    If I was HIRED to write an article on an assigned topic, promised a fee, given a deadline, required to be at the editorial meeting, produced that assignment and THEN was not paid? Oh yeah...I'd be all over that. But that's not what happened. For me, for any of the bloggers, and certainly not for Cherie Turner or Jonathan Tasini (the man spear-heading the lawsuit against the Post). NO ONE who was invited to blog was promised payment beyond the exposure and free publicity being at the Post offered them. If any of us didn't agree with that arrangement we were free to refuse it. I didn't, they didn't, and to file suit because some money was made after the fact of that mutually agreed upon arrangement is ridiculous. Unethical, even...a word Ms. Turner throws around pretty freely.

    Beyond my page at the Huffington Post, I have a own personal blog as well - http://www.rockpapermusic.com. Sometimes the articles I run there also run on my Huffington Post page. Sometimes they're different articles. But without a doubt, the reach and awareness the Huff Post pieces are afforded is clearly well beyond that of my own blog (certainly at this point in my career!:) and I'm thrilled to be riding that wave. I was never told I'd be paid and then reneged on, I was never promised anything that was not delivered, and I have found the impact on my own ability to build an audience exponential to the heft and breadth of the Huff Post's reach immense...you might even say "priceless."

    To claim that the market value of writing, or the value of writers, has been diminished by the commerce (or lack of it) with unpaid bloggers is ridiculous. I am a professional writer and, believe me, when I can demand it and be paid for work, I do and I am (and being able to direct people to my Huff Post page is a tremendous boon toward that effort!). But I also have a strong desire to express myself on topics and issues that move me and, without having to pound the pavement for paying publishers to post them, I post them myself on either my blog or my Huff Post page...the empowerment of that option is yet another appreciated way in which I'm "paid" for the blogging I do.

    Greed is a nasty little urge that sometimes creeps into this conversation and I think it's essential that everyone who's part of the debate be very clear of their intentions. We all want to be paid for what we do, but in the burgeoning and constantly evolving world of online art+commerce, the paradigms are fluid and the formulas are still being sought; in music, in art, in photography, in film, AND in writing. And until a perfect formula has been formulated, NO ONE can tell me NOT to write for this person or that, this magazine or that, this online paper or that. Everyone who thinks they should boycott or sue or accuse others of unethical behavior or carp and complain about being devalued...you go ahead and spend your time doing that. Me...?

    I'm going to spend my time doing what it is I do: I write. I will take paid assignments when I can get them (and certainly if and when the Huffington Post offers me one of those, I will be delighted to accept!). I will continue to push and promote my work in the effort to get more of those in my door. I will honor and respect those who request my work and appreciate those who read and are moved by it. I will hone my craft in all the ways I know how but mostly...I will write. However, whenever, wherever, for whomever and on whatever topic I wish. And while I'm doing that, and enjoying the platforms given to me by people who appreciate my work, I will ask you to please keep your convoluted negativity off my platform...I've got a concession stand to run. You're welcome to cross your picket line to read it: http://www.huffingtonpost.com/lorraine-devon-wilke/.

     

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  77.  
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    Anonymous Coward, Jul 6th, 2011 @ 4:41pm

    Exposure is worth jack. Money counts.

     

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  78.  
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    nasch (profile), Jul 6th, 2011 @ 8:30pm

    Re:

    So just don't write for free and then complain about it if you don't value exposure.

     

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