(FinalCall.com) – The recent sale of the online news site Huffington Post to AOL for $315 million was good news to founder Arianna Huffi ngton but a slap in the face to writers and bloggers who contribute content to the site for free.
Many are now upset, feeling used and abused. Visual Art Source, which has art galleries around the country and provided free content, has started a strike against the company.
“We shall remain on strike until these two demands are met.
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,” wrote Bill Lasarow, editor and publisher. More than 50 writers initially joined the strike–but more strikers are being recruited.
“I am also calling upon all others now contributing free content, particularly original content to the Huffington Post to also join us in this strike,” said Mr. Lasarow. “We think it is incumbent upon the many writers and bloggers to form a negotiating partnership with Huffington/AOL in order to pursue these and other important matters so as to professionalize this relationship. It is not entirely Ms. Huffi ngton’s fault that so many talented professionals have been willing to accept the company’s terms on an ‘in kind’, basis.”
On March 16, the Newspaper Guild, a 26,000 member strong national union of media workers, joined the strike and electronic boycott.
“The Newspaper Guild is calling on unpaid writers of the Huffi ngton Post to withhold their work in support of a strike launched by Visual Art Source in response to the company’s practice of 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. 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,” said the Newspaper Guild.
As Cherie Turner, a former Huffington Post writer, said, “Certainly, we all have written for free for the great exposure the Huffi ngton 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 profi ts by those at the top. We are only asking for a fair share of what we are helping to create.”
The online HuffingtonPost.com made its mark as a popular progressive website and hub for articles, opinion pieces and other features that were often outside of mainstream media and an alternative to news and opinion from the political right.