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A Facebook page, "Hey Arianna, can you spare a dime?" (Credit: Facebook)

The Newspaper Guild has started a movement to send letters calling on the HuffPost to pay its bloggers.

The Newspaper Guild explains on its website that it is “primarily a media union” and states that it has “more than 34,000 members in the United States, Canada and in Puerto Rico, and we are journalists, sales and media workers of all kinds.”

The Newspaper Guild’s letters, addressed to Arianna Huffington, state:

“After building a media empire based on unpaid writers and republishing the work of others, the Huffington Post was sold to AOL for $315 million. We are calling on Huffington Post founder Arianna Huffington to invest in quality journalism by sharing a portion of this fortune with the people 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.”

An e-mail exchange between Huffington Post SVP for Media Relations, Mario Ruiz, and Newspaper Guild president Bernie Lunzer was published on Poynter’s Romenesko blog Feb. 22.

Ruiz’s e-mail, addressed to Bill not Bernie, is a response to the guild’s “campaign targeting HuffPost for being unfair to journalists.”  Ruiz wrote:  “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.”

As Ruiz stated, the Huffington Post pays “editors and reporters” but not bloggers’ opinion pieces.

“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.”

In response, Lunzer commented on the name mix-up, writing “My first name is Bernie, not Bill – so I’m not certain if you intended this message for me.”  Lunzer went on to state:

“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.”

The Newspaper Guild announced the letters to Huffington in a press release, noting that “in conjunction with The Guild Freelancers” the Guild created a Facebook page to support the movement.  The Facebook page, “Hey Arianna, Can you Spare a Dime?” has 857 fans.

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The Huffington Post’s Ruiz has commented at least twice on the Facebook page, first on Feb. 20 at 11:09 PM posting the statement sent to Lunzer .  Notably, Ruiz didn’t identify himself as a Huffington Post representative in either posting.

He also posted Feb. 27 at 9:02 PM, sharing a link to an Ad Age article by Huffington Post blogger Judy Shapiro defending the Huffington Post and expressing “gratitude” and “admiration” to the site, even though she has never been paid.

Shapiro wrote:

“I’ll end with this: To any HuffPo blogger who feels exploited, if you could go back in time, would you not have become a blogger at HuffPo? I suspect the vast majority would have done it anyway. And to you ‘outsiders’ who are outraged on our behalf, I really wonder if you are bitter about HuffPo because you tried to become a blogger and didn’t make the cut?

“This little blogger slave has nothing but gratitude to Arianna. I thank you!”

iMediaEthics is writing HuffPost for comment.

UPDATE: 3/1/2011 1:10 PM EST: Mario Ruiz, Huffington Post’s SVP of Media Relations, responded to iMediaEthics’ inquiry.  He told us that he thought his Facebook profile (with which he had commented twice on the “Hey Arianna” page in defense of HuffPost without disclosure to his employment) publicly disclosed his affiliation with Huffington Post.  He has since made his affiliation with Huffington Post public information on Facebook.

He noted that he’s “easily Google-able as HuffPost SVP of communications and also quoted in that capacity.  So of course it was done in a way meant to be wholly transparent.”

Ruiz requested that we post his statement regarding the Newspaper Guild’s letters in full (posted above in part from Romenesko above).

“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.”

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One Response

  1. Judy Shapiro says:

    The article I wrote in Ad Age was expressing my position because HuffPo served me well to create an audience. The critical subtlety you overlook is that the debate is not about whether journalists should get paid fairly? Of course they should. But HuffPo is a platform that belongs to all of us- not just the media pro’s. For me, HuffPo was a powerful, positive catalyst for my business. Hence my gratitude and my perspective. Dissing those of us who learned how to use the new media to our advantage is bad form. Far better to learn how to use the alternate publishing platforms creatively and profitably. Judy Shapiro

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