The Huffington Post is a huge success. As a result, so is Arianna Huffington, its founder and the woman whose name it carries. The site uses content written by unpaid contributors, and Huffington herself is constantly dismissal of bloggers and the idea that they should be paid for their work. Which makes my blood boil.
In an interview with All Things Digital, which seems to have taken place in the doorway of a restaurant, Arianna Huffington attempts to defend her site’s policy of not paying bloggers. Because, you see, blogging isn’t a job and we should all be doing it just so that our opinion gets heard by more than just our friends down the pub.
We pay all our people. The bloggers are not really journalists. The bloggers are politicians, actors, chefs, poets. They’re people who, every now and then, want to dip into the national conversation with whatever is on their minds. That’s not a job. So the idea that they are journalists we don’t pay is not based on fact.
No, the idea they are not journalists is one you hold true as an opinion and spout whenever anyone asks you to defend your position on using non-paid contributions to build traffic and revenue. Just because you say something doesn’t necessarily make it true, no matter how highly regarded you may be.
Sure, many bloggers, including those who contribute to the success of your site, have regular day jobs. But that doesn’t mean that what they write isn’t journalism and that, for the brief period where their story appears on The Huffington Post, they aren’t journalists. Otherwise the term, citizen journalists, would be completely erroneous. And it isn’t. In fact, the situation in Iran is proving the need for citizen journalists.
If The Huffington Post was a completely not-for-profit organization which existed purely to seek the truth and let the small people, who usually don’t get heard, be heard, then there wouldn’t be any question of money changing hands. Which is why Wikipedia is applauded rather than derided for its legion of unpaid editors. But we all know this is not the case, and in fact, The Huffington Post is thought to be breaking even in revenue and worth an estimated $200 million.
Huffington, both the woman and her site, think content is king. Which it is. However, it should be remembered that all content derives from someone somewhere producing it on their computer. If they all suddenly decided to stop producing said content then The Huffington Post would cease to exist, and Arianna Huffington would be a nobody once again. Which is a rather attractive option right now.