Los Angeles Times Columnist Declares Aol-HuffPo Deal Bad For Journalism

Surveying the media landscape in the aftermath of yesterday’s $315 million deal bringing the Huffington Post to Aol, the Los Angeles TimesTim Rutten has concluded journalism is “the loser.” Using plenty of colorful images (“To grasp the Huffington Post’s business model, picture a galley rowed by slaves and commanded by pirates.”), Rutten describes the merger as a means to “push more journalists more deeply into the tragically expanding low-wage sector of our increasingly brutal economy.”

Rutten points to Aol’s CEO Tim Armstrong as an example of an executive who puts profit over journalism:

That’s borne out by a memo from AOL Chief Executive Officer Tim Armstrong on where his company’s journalism is going. It’s fairly chilling reading, ordering the company’s editors to evaluate all future stories on the basis of “traffic potential, revenue potential, edit quality and turnaround time.” All stories, it stressed, are to be evaluated according to their “profitability consideration.” All AOL’s journalistic employees will be required to produce “five to 10 stories per day.”

Rutten then savages the likely result of combining Aol’s thinking with the HuffPo’s expertise at creating and distributing content:

The fact is that AOL and the Huffington Post simply recapitulate in the new media many of the worst abuses of the old economy’s industrial capitalism — the sweatshop, the speedup and piecework; huge profits for the owners; desperation, drudgery and exploitation for the workers. No child labor, yet, but if there were more page views in it…

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