Even retired editors pay attention when something strange occurs in the publishing industry. And a recent little union kerfuffle definitely qualifies.
It seems the Newspaper Guild, a union representing 26,000 U.S. media workers, has called for a strike against the Internet’s well-known Huffington Post. Why? Because, according to the Guild, Huffpo doesn’t pay contributors who willingly write for it without compensation. And because Huffpo gleans much of its material from other sources. And because it blurs the line between real news, legitimate opinion, and “advertorials.”
NG is demanding — demanding — that Huffpo stop these practices. It has called for a meeting with the website’s officials to discuss ways in which Huffpo “might demonstrate its commitment to quality journalism.” Not surprisingly, Huffpo has been dismissive.
Love it or hate it, but on some level one has to admire Huffpo’s success. Why not leverage a pool of writers willing to write for free (whatever their personal motives might be). Why not draw content from as many other sources as possible instead of doing the spadework yourself. And if your content doesn’t always distinguish between news and opinion, well, you’re certainly not alone in that.
Taking a swipe at individuals who choose to write for HP without compensation (other than a byline), the Guild states, “Working for free does not benefit workers and undermines quality journalism.” As if they have any say over what those individuals do. Then they go on to demand a fee schedule for all HP writers/bloggers/contributors.
NG tries to ennoble its ridiculous demands with this:
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.
Of course, if HP cared a whit about such things, they’d already be in place. And if NG were genuinely concerned about ethics and practices, they wouldn’t have waited until after the recent $350 million HP-AOL merger to register their complaints.