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Huffington Post Contributor Plans Strike, Seeks Payment

Huffington Post contributor Visual Arts Source has announced that it will cease to provide the site with content until HuffPost agrees to pay its writers – and it wants other HuffPost writers and contributors to join in.

In a post on the company’s website, Visual Arts Source publisher and co-editor Bill Lasarow writes that he was well aware of the Huffington Post’s payment policy when his company agreed to provide the site with content. However, in light of Aol’s decision to buy the Huffington Post for $315 million, the company has done some reassessing, coming up with two specific demands:

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.

One of the goals in organizing this strike, Lasarow explains, is to “professionalize” the relationship among the HuffPost and its contributors. Additionally, he writes, it is “unethical to expect trained and qualified professionals to contribute quality content for nothing.”

We reached out to the Huffington Post for comment, and the site took the opportunity to clarify the misconception that it’s entire workforce is unpaid. In fact, the site has 143 editors, writers, and reporters on its edit team, and maintains that its other, “group blog” contributors – who, again, are aware of the site’s policy when agreeing to write for them – are compensated by the exposure they receive from having their writing and opinions featured on a high-traffic site.

It’s a sentiment echoed by Judy Shapiro, who wrote a post for Ad Week on the non-monetary compensation she feels she’s received thanks to the Huffington Post:

Exploitation means that one side has an unfair advantage over the other. That was never the case here. People submitted to be bloggers and got accepted (or not) on the merit of their work and their ability to build an audience. Not a single HuffPo blogger did it without understanding why she did it. In most cases and most times, this was an agreement made with everyone knowing exactly what each was getting in the bargain. For a great many writers, the bargain was tilted in their favor. Very talented but unknown people have become well-known thought-leaders and pundits as a result; to be a successful Huffington Post blogger can be a career-changing experience.

I, for one, have nothing but gratitude to the HuffPo. It gave me a valuable platform to create a franchise called “Judy Consumer,” where I explore how the technology tsunami (yes, I use that word deliberately) is affecting regular people outside the marketing/tech world.

Other contributors have been open about the other writing opportunities that have come their way as a result of their HuffPost blogging stints, like Greg Gutfeld, who credits his Huffing Post blogging gig as paving the way for Red Eye.

And that, of course, is a point that keeps popping up in discussions about HuffPost’s payment policy: Its writers are very much aware that they won’t receive payment, and yet they choose to write for the site anyway. We’re more concerned, really, with Visual Arts Source’s reason for going on strike.

So tell us: Is their assessment that HuffPost’s policy is “unethical” a fair one? Does the site owe its unpaid contributors anything other than a platform for their writing?

h/t The Wrap

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