Newspaper Guild Calls on HuffPo's Unpaid Bloggers to Stop Blogging

Union joins group of Huffington Post contributors who are protesting the site's unwillingness to pay bloggers following its $315 million purchase by AOL

The Newspaper Guild has joined a group of Huffington Post bloggers in protesting the site's pay policy — specifically, its lack of pay.

The guild "is calling on unpaid writers of the Huffington Post to withhold their work in support of a strike launched by Visual Arts Source in response to the company’s practice or using unpaid labor."

The union said it requested a meeting with the Huffington Post to discuss the situation. "Thus far, the request has been ignored," the guild wrote.

"In addition, we are asking that our members and all supporters of fair and equitable compensation for journalists join us in shining a light on the unprofessional and unethical practices of this company."

Earlier this month, Arianna Huffington scoffed at the "strike" launched by the Visual Arts group. The small community of bloggers is protesting HuffPo for sticking to its no-pay policy, even though AOL paid $315 million to acquire the site last month.

“The idea of going on strike when no one really notices,” Huffington said. “Go ahead, go on strike.”

The Newspaper Guild, though, has over 26,000 members.

Here's the guild's memo (via Romenesko):

From: The Newspaper Guild-CWA
Subject: Support Huffington Post Bloggers
Date: Wednesday, March 16, 2011, 7:44 AM

The Newspaper Guild is calling on unpaid writers of the Huffington Post to withhold their work in support of a strike launched by Visual Arts Source in response to the company’s practice or using unpaid labor. In addition, we are asking that our members and all supporters of fair and equitable compensation for journalists join us in shining a light on the unprofessional and unethical practices of this company.

Just as we would ask writers to stand fast and not cross a physical picket line, we ask that they honor this electronic picket line.

The Newspaper Guild, a 26,000-member-strong national union of media workers, is committed to fair compensation for all workers, whether they are freelance bloggers or traditional employees. We are further committed to promoting quality journalism. Working for free does not benefit workers and undermines quality journalism.

In response to the Huffington Post’s refusal to compensate its thousands of writers in the wake of its $315 million merger with AOL, the Newspaper Guild has requested a meeting with company officials to discuss ways the Huffington Post might demonstrate its commitment to quality journalism. Thus far, the request has been ignored.

Visual Arts Source, http://visualartsource.com, an art publication, represents more than 50 writers who have said they will no longer write for the Huffington Post for free and who object to a company that depends on unpaid labor for its success.

As Cherie Turner, one of the former writers, explained, “Certainly, we all have written for free for the great exposure the Huffington Post can give us, but what’s the cost? Those of us on strike feel it undermines the value of our profession and is unethical, especially in light of great profits by those at the top. We are only asking for a fair share of what we are helping to create. We are also speaking out against real journalism being run side-by-side with advertorial.

“We feel 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 that 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.

The Newspaper Guild and Visual Arts Source urge others to join forces and no longer contribute their labor until the following demands are met:

● A pay schedule must be proposed and steps initiated to implement it for all contributing writers and bloggers; and,

● 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.

Four things you can do NOW, if you choose to join this effort:

● Stop providing free content to Huffington Post and let your editor know you are choosing to take this action and what your demands are if he/she would like to keep you writing for HP (see above);

● Please respond and let me know you’re on board and that we are allowed to use your name in any press materials we send out regarding this strike;

● Please pass along the names and e-mail addresses of your colleagues who contribute to the Huffington Post so that we may ask for their support;

● Send a letter to your local media op-ed section letting them know how you feel about this situation.

Thank you for your consideration in joining in these efforts. Our intent is to encourage the Huffington Post to do the right thing. We would all love to continue contributing, but only if the terms are fair and promote good, healthy journalism. This is about supporting the quality and integrity of a vehicle for progressive expression, to actually help Huffington Post succeed, but on the right terms. We call on Arianna Huffington to demonstrate her commitment to the working class she so ardently champions in her writing.