So eager to have a platform for my stories about U. S. soldiers returning from Iraq with Cancer, I didn’t ask for payment; I merely handed over the 20 to 30 hours of reporting on each piece gratis.
Over that period, I had asked Arianna Huffington several times for financial support. But after being referred to the D.C. based Huffington Post Investigative Fund as a candidate for payment, I was turned down by the fund, as well as by Executive Editor Roy Sekoff .
I become incensed to learn that in December The Huffington Post hired away two New York Times editors for well over $100,000 each.
Then to receive an E-mail from Arianna and Roy about their “exciting news” of the AOL take over, I was less than enthusiastic.
Do they really think 6,000 slave writers will continue to write for free for an international conglomerate like AOL, which pays their web writers, even if it is meager?
AOL made the deal while they courted her over the weekend at the Super Bowl. Not only did they buy out The Huffington Post for $315 million, but $300 million of that amount is in cash.
Essentially, the 6,000 writers Arianna lured with coveted bylines, then exploited while the site raked in ad revenue in the millions of dollars have now been sold without their permission, under the guise that we’ll continue to write for AOL for free.
It is presumptuous and arrogant to say the least.
The only way to respond to this downward spiral for writers who are providing original content for not even a slap on the back, is to withdraw.
We have grumbled over the years that our craft has lost its value with technical advancement. Web writing will never compare to print—in respect nor payment—unless we change it.
Since the Internet is unregulated when it comes to rights for writers and photographers, then my fellow scribers, this should be a turning point where we no longer write for free.
How can one person sell another’s work, without their permission, unless they are slave labor without laws protecting them?
We might have had no rights contributing to The Huffington Post. But it is OUR decision now whether to write for free for the new owners.
This may be an exciting payday for the masthead, but for the thousands of writers who have kept the site in business and lucrative for five years, it is another beast all together.
If AOL assumes it’s business as usual without pay for Huffington Post writers, then the executives brokering the deal need to think again.
Arianna not only sold her soul as well as her ship of slaves, but in my opinion, she sowed the seeds of her own demise with this act of greed and exploitation.
And I may not be the only contributor who needs a glass of water to wash the bitter taste of this deal from my mouth.
R. B. Stuart is a New York author, freelance writer, columnist, poet and photographer. She has written for Glamour magazine, Global Post, The New York Times, Poets & Writers, Distinction magazine, The New York Sun, The Improper, Newsday, Hamptons Online, Long Island magazine, The Independent, Elements magazine and Real Estate New York. She is a contributing writer for The Huffington Post. For more, check out RBStuart.com