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/).