The Newspaper Guild, a journalists' union with more than 34,000 members, has launched a letter writing campaign calling on Arianna Huffington, the co-founder of the Huffington Post, to share her fortune with the unpaid writers who made her successful.
"As we look to the future, we look to you, Arianna Huffington, as a leader in web-based news coverage, to demonstrate your commitment to the value of journalism, and to help prevent independent journalists from having to settle for third-world wages," the letter to Ms. Huffington stated.
Writers for ArtScene and Visual Art Source also announced Monday that they were going on strike against the Huffington Post until the publication proposed a pay schedule and stopped placing promotional material alongside editorial content.
"It is unethical to expect trained and qualified professionals to contribute quality content for nothing," Bill Lasarow, publisher and co-editor of Visual Art Source, said in a statement.
"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."
Mario Ruiz, the Senior Vice President of Media Relations at the Huffington Post, defended the online publication in a letter to Guild president Bernie Lunzer, noting that the Huffington Post employs 143 editors, writers, and reporters.
"While we pay our editors and reporters, we don’t pay for the opinion pieces submitted by our thousands of bloggers," Ruiz explained. "The vast majority of our bloggers understand the value of having a platform that reaches a very large audience. People blog on HuffPost for free for the same reason they go on cable TV shows every night for free – because they are passionate about their ideas, want them to be heard by the largest possible audience, and understand the value that that kind of visibility can bring."
"Our bloggers can choose to write for HuffPost – or not write for HuffPost," he continued. "They can write as often as like they like or as little as they like. It’s both wrong and offensive to insist that HuffPost is exploiting journalists."
In response, Lunzer said he had "great concerns about the HuffPost model and its long-term effect on journalism."
The Huffington Post has faced a slew criticism from liberals and progressives after it was sold to AOL for $315 million.
"Any business owner who uses largely unpaid labor, with a handful of underpaid, nonunion employees, to build a company that is sold for a few hundred million dollars, no matter how he or she is introduced to you on the television screen, is not a liberal or a progressive," American journalist, author and war correspondent Chris Hedges wrote at TruthDig last week.
"If Huffington has a conscience, she will sit down when the AOL check arrives and make sure every cent of it is paid out to those who worked free or at minimal wages for her over the last six years."
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