HuffPo: ‘Vast Majority’ of Our Bloggers Understand Value of Free

Huffington Post’s VP of media relations responds to Newspaper Guild campaign, criticism

The Huffington Post is fighting back.

Last week, the Newspaper Guild launched a campaign criticizing the site for exploiting journalists and urging Arianna Huffington to give her unpaid bloggers a cut of the $315 million AOL agreed to pay her for HuffPo.

“We are calling on Huffington Post founder Arianna Huffington to invest in quality Journalism by sharing a portion of fortune with the people who made her successful,” the Guild wrote in a note to its 34,000 members

“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.”

Mario Ruiz, HuffPo’s SVP of media relations, has responded in an e-mail to Guild president Bernie Lunzer (who he erroneously referred to as "Bill") and cross-posted on Jim Romenesko’s Poynter blog.

“The vast majority of our bloggers understand the value of having a platform that reaches a very large audience,” Ruiz wrote. “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.”

"It’s both wrong and offensive to insist that HuffPost is exploiting journalists."

Lunzer's response: "My first name is Bernie, not Bill — so I’m not certain if you intended this message for me. We continue to have great concerns about the HuffPost model and its long-term effect on journalism. I am not at all surprised that you see it as a simple matter. If at some point HuffPost desired a conversation, we would entertain the offer."

Here’s Ruiz’s e-mail to Lunzer and the Guild in full:

From: Mario Ruiz
Date: Sun, Feb 20, 2011 at 9:43 PM
Subject: huffington post pr reaching out
To: [REDACTED]

Dear Bill,

As SVP of Media Relations at The Huffington Post, I wanted to reach out to you as we’ve become aware of your campaign targeting HuffPost for being unfair to journalists. We couldn’t agree more with your goal of ensuring journalists are paid for their work. It’s why HuffPost has 143 editors, writers, and reporters on our edit team. But we feel there’s a critical distinction between our editors and reporters and the people who contribute to our group blog. While we pay our editors and reporters, we don’t pay for the opinion pieces submitted by our thousands of bloggers. 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 (the visibility of being on HuffPost has led to our bloggers being invited on TV to discuss their posts, to paid speeches, to book deals, to a TV show — Greg Gutfeld claims he was offered his Fox show because of his writing on HuffPost). Our bloggers can choose to write for HuffPost — or not write for HuffPost. 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.

Cordially,

Mario