I Support the Digital Picket Line: Goodbye Huffington Post
by Alex Juhasz — Pitzer College
June 15, 2011 – 12:38
“In response to what labor leaders see as an exploitative situation, on March 17th, the Newspaper Guild and the National Writers Union both called for bloggers to refuse to blog at the Huffington Post and join an electronic picket line against the Huffington Post.” Mike Elk
While this is the first I’ve heard of this “strike,” its aims are not really news to me. I have been blogging at HuffPo for a little over a year (and here for close to four years!) and in that short time my experience at Huffington Post has really soured. Before I summarize my transition from pleased to pissed, it seems important to note how my not knowing about the virtual picket line reflects some of the larger problem, and how my honoring it will as well. I am not a professional journalist, nor do I even think of my blogging as “journalism,” and I do not need to get paid for this effort because I write as a professor who sees some reflection of my professional efforts in my salary (questions about how to “count” blogging are rife across academia, but I won’t go into that here, and will only suggest that I am well aware of its links to my more traditional work). I am like any number of bloggers who “work for free” because we actually can: whether this be because our labor is paid elsewhere or because we do this work/hobby/activity for fun. In political solidarity with working (unpaid, outsourced) journalists, I am, in fact, a large part of the very flooding of the Internet with other forms of professional (or “pro-am”) content that devalues the worth of their professional labor. And, when I choose to only post this here, I’ll get my small, refined, micro-readership (whoever you may be) to know about the picket line. The only reason I use the Huffington Post is to make my topical writing more visible to people outside my niche. But no longer. And no big loss.
I was initially invited to respond to a piece in their College section that made fun of my course Learning From YouTube (as did most mainstream coverage), but I used this opportunity to first call them out on their silly sarcasm, and then to start duplicating some posts from this blog that seemed to be of more general interest. A number of my posts on things that were both really topical and really mainstream did benefit from their duplication on HuffPo. I’d watch them ride the Internet waves for awhile once they surfaced there, and that never happens here. At one point, writing on Juaquin Phoenix, I even crossed some magic threshold (of views perhaps), and unannounced, uninvited elves started editing my posts (for style and content). After several frustrating days of attempting to get to any person who worked there, I informed them that I was not allowing them to edit my work without my permission and that their user agreement seemed to be in violation. They returned it to its original state. And then they were bought out.
After this, my experience changed immediately, and entirely for the worse. I have attempted to cross-post four times since then, but now their policy is that they select posts, and only one of mine has crossed their unstated threshhold: a recent piece on Cave of Dreams. Meanwhile, other blogs on Cedar Rapids, YouTube and the Arab Spring, and my most recent post on the phony lesbian blogger, did not pass muster.
Now that Huffington Post selects content it would only be right to explain their standards to their authors, allow bloggers contact with the editors who are making these decisions, and then … well, obviously, to pay us for our now-selected content.