When we were invited to become a Huffington Post blogger last year I understood that the company paid nothing. We surveyed our writers’ reaction to assess their willingness to have their material reposted there for no additional pay. Visual Art Source, ArtScene and art ltd. (http://www.visualartsource.com) form an umbrella art publishing company that is actually quite large by the standards of our very specialized field. The tens of thousands of readers and online users that we boast, however, are miniscule compared to the 26 million visitors per month that the Huffington Post currently draws.
Yet we are now going on strike. For now, at least, no more content from us will appear on the Huffington Post.
And just like the corporate titans of the American Right, it would come as no surprise if Ms Huffington, whom I am certain has a good heart and only the best intentions, were to assume the obvious position: Who needs these people anyway? They are not even employees.
Nonetheless, 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.
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.
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 Huffington’s fault that so many talented professionals have been willing to accept the company’s terms on an “in kind” basis. Surely most do so in the hopes of achieving their own fame and fortune thanks to the great exposure that Huffington Post potentially offers. Unfortunately, such participants are only complicit in a relationship that fails the ethical smell test. And those who are already nationally known figures who will never need to be concerned about pay scales, shame on you, you should know better.
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 who 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.
None of this is illegal, only unethical and oh so very hypocritical, so Ms Huffington if you insist do carry on, by all means. However we are taking this action, with the full knowledge of our contributing writers and editors, in the belief that your better angels will enable you to do the right thing. We stand ready to provide whatever helpful input we can.