The National Writers Union/UAW Local 1981 (NWU) is committed to establishing a fair pay scale for freelance journalists and writers. We believe that recent actions by AOL/Huffington Post set a dangerous precedent.
As Tim Rutten stated in his February Op-Ed piece in the LA Times, “Whatever the ultimate impact of AOL's $315-million acquisition of the Huffington Post on the new-media landscape, it's already clear that the merger will push more journalists more deeply into the tragically expanding low-wage sector of our increasingly brutal economy.”
Rutten’s words rang true because only a month after the merger, AOL fired hundreds of writers including veteran journalists. Oliver Miller, who was let go by AOL said, “I disliked my job, but I dreaded being fired from it, and with good reason; it’s been five months since my firing now, and I’ve run through my savings, and I still haven’t found another full-time writing gig.” On the day of the lay-offs, Jonathan Dube, AOL’s Senior Vice President of News tweeted, “I have just laid off dozens of the most talented journalists & product folks I know…”
The new Huffington Post Media Group has promised to hire new writers especially through AOL’s community-specific news and information platform, Patch.com, which by many accounts requires long hours for minimal pay. So who are they hiring? And what about freelance writers? A memo from AOL’s CEO Tim Armstrong said, “Going forward, AOL will invest more heavily in our in-house editorial team and transition away from a reliance on freelance journalists.”
Not everyone will be brought into the new company. So what is a seasoned freelance writer expected to do? Write for free? The Huffington Post Media Group claims its policy is not to ask “freelance writers to become unpaid bloggers.” But right now there does not seem to be a well-defined understanding of who is a freelance writer – other than someone the Huffington Post does not want to pay.
Working without pay should not be the expectation of online publications – or online writers. As the nation’s most popular blog, the Huffington Post sets the status quo for other online publications. The NWU is committed to fighting for fair pay for freelance writers. So we want to work with the Huffington Post to set high standards of quality online journalism that fairly compensates its writers.
For campaign updates, sign up at www.PayTheWriter.org