Posts Tagged ‘AOL’

Bloggers’ Lawsuit Dismissed Against AOL, HuffPo

A New York federal court judge has ruled against bloggers who sued The Huffington Post for compensation for their contributions to the news website.

“There is no question that the plaintiffs submitted their materials to The Huffington Post with no expectation of monetary compensation and that they got what they paid for – exposure in The Huffington Post,” U.S. District Court Judge John G. Koeltl wrote in his March 30 dismissal of the lawsuit.

Jonathan Tasini and others contributors /bloggers filed the class action suit after AOL purchased the Huffington Post for $315 million in February 2011, claiming their contributions and articles contributed to the value of The Huffington Post.

They were seeking back pay – to the tune of $105 million, according to the suit that was filed April 12, 2011, against AOL, TheHuffingtonPost.com, and Arianna Huffington and Kenneth Lerer, the news website’s founders.

Judge Koeltl found that the plaintiffs represented “professional or quasi-professional writers” who “submitted significant volumes of content over varying periods of time. For example, plaintiff Tasini, described in the Complaint as a professional author, politician, union leader and successful United States Supreme Court litigant, submitted content 216 times over the course of more than five years and publicized that content through social networking media such as Facebook and Twitter.

“Rather than monetary compensation, the unpaid content providers are offered exposure — namely, visibility, promotion and distribution, for themselves and their work,” the judge continued.

“Under New York law, a plaintiff must plead some expectation of compensation that was denied in order to recover under a theory of unjust enrichment. The complaint fails to do so and the claim for unjust enrichment must therefore be dismissed,” according to the judge’s ruling.

Susan Cormier is the co-author of the “Handbook for Citizen Journalists” (http://www.citizenjournalistnow.com/)

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04

04 2012

Arianna Continues to Spread her Wings

Arianna Huffington apparently isn’t bothered by all the complaints from bloggers and citizen journalists who are angry they haven’t been paid for their years of contributions to The Huffington Post.

In fact, she invited bloggers this week to begin contributing to a similar venture with AOL’s Patch.com.

Called “Local Voices,” the new expansion of AOL’s local online news sites seeks bloggers to “complement Patch’s original reporting” in the United States, Huffington said in her announcement on Wednesday.

Local Voices “includes a vision that will utilize every possible resource to ensure accurate, relevant and comprehensive coverage,” including “our ever-expanding network of Patch editors and reporters . . . and cross-posting and amplifying the work of local bloggers who are already doing great work, providing them an even more powerful platform for expressing their views,” according to Huffington.

That’s all fine and dandy, but will this new concept anger an even larger number of bloggers and citizen journalists who would like to get paid for their work? And will those protests lead to boycotts and make AOL regret pouring millions into the project?

AOL reportedly has spent $40 million on Patch in the first quarter of this year alone. It also spent $315 million for The Huffington Post in February.

Or will this project, as AOL hopes, help it regain its prominence on the Internet?

This is one story that is fascinating to watch.

Susan Cormier is the co-author of the “Handbook for Citizen Journalists” (http://www.citizenjournalistnow.com/).

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07

05 2011

Do all Citizen Journalists Deserve a Paycheck?

The debate rages on over whether citizen journalists and bloggers should get paid for their work.

The most recent salvos come amidst AOL’s $315 million purchase of The Huffington Post and a class-action suit filed by a former HuffPost contributor and activist.

Jonathan Tasini believes bloggers who have contributed to the HuffPost for years should receive back pay – to the tune of $105 million, according to the suit he filed April 12 against AOL, TheHuffingtonPost.com, and Arianna Huffington and Kenneth Lerer, the news website’s founders.

“In my view, the Huffington Post’s bloggers have essentially been turned into modern-day slaves on Arianna Huffington’s plantation,” Tasini was reported to have said in a telephone press conference. “This lawsuit is about establishing justice for the bloggers of the Huffington Post and establishing a standard going forward.”

He also said is he urging other bloggers to stop contributing to the HuffPo.

“Anybody blogging for the Huffington Post now is a scab,” he said. “They’re a strike breaker. They’re producing content for somebody who is attacking workers.”

He’s not the only one suggesting that contributors stop writing for free. On March 16, the Newspaper Guild of America joined the Visual Arts Source in urging unpaid writers to stop contributing to the website.

“We are asking that our members and all supporters of fair and equitable compensation for journalists join us in shining a light on the unprofessional and unethical practices of this company,” the Guild said in its press release.

Of course, Huffington sees things differently, reportedly saying the lawsuit is “utterly without merit.”

The UK Telegraph reported that she accused Tasini and other bloggers of changing their tune after AOL purchased the site.

“Without a shadow of a doubt, Tasini understood and appreciated the value of having a post on HuffPost – and was only too happy to use our platform’s ability to get his work seen by a wider audience and raise his profile when he was running for office,” she reportedly said.

“Until years later, when he suddenly decided that he’d changed his mind… and that instead of providing a boost to his career and political aspirations, posting on our site was actually just like being a slave on a plantation.”

As the verbal attacks fly, I have to say I can see both sides. Sure, there are some citizen journalists and bloggers who work very hard at their craft and should be paid. At the same time, there also are those who call themselves citizen journalists, but they are only out there writing to promote a cause or issue.

I have to admit that I’ve contributed both ways. I’ve been paid to contribute to a community publication when it needed help. I’ve also blogged for free about citizen journalism. Why? Because I want to promote the National Association of Citizen Journalists. Like I said, I understand both sides.

Susan Cormier is the head coach in charge of training at the National Association of Citizen Journalists (http://nacj.us/) and co-author of the “Handbook for Citizen Journalists” (http://www.citizenjournalistnow.com/).

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Only Time Will Tell if AOL’s Purchase of HuffPo Will Help or Hurt Citizen Journalists

AOL’s $315 million purchase of The Huffington Post that was announced Sunday, Feb. 6, raised eyebrows in the online journalism community.

According to news reports, Arianna Huffington will take control of all of AOL’s editorial content as president and editor in chief of a newly created Huffington Post Media Group.

AOL, which has been seen as apolitical, risks losing its nonpartisan image, according to The New York Times, which also quoted Huffington as saying her politics would have no bearing on how she ran the new business.

Sprinting out of the starting gate, Huffington the next day talked about how she wanted to put citizen journalists to work on the 2012 presidential campaign.

Some have questioned whether the citizen journalists and bloggers who have contributed free content will remain onboard without pay.

At the same time, others have written that HuffPo’s business model is misunderstood and that the content contributed by unpaid writers represents only a small share of its traffic.

Only time will tell how this will develop, but it certainly will be interesting to watch.

Susan Cormier is the head coach in charge of training at the National Association of Citizen Journalists (http://nacj.us/) and co-author of the “Handbook for Citizen Journalists” (http://www.citizenjournalistnow.com/).

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18

02 2011