This is probably the most devastating piece I’ve read on the HuffPo/Aol merger. From Truthdig:
Any business owner who uses largely unpaid labor, with a handful of underpaid, nonunion employees, to build a company that is sold for a few hundred million dollars, no matter how he or she is introduced to you on the television screen, is not a liberal or a progressive. Those who take advantage of workers, whatever their outward ideological veneer, to make profits of that magnitude are charter members of the exploitative class. Dust off your Karl Marx. They are the enemies of working men and women. And they are also, in this case, sucking the lifeblood out of a trade I care deeply about. It was bad enough that Huffington used her site for flagrant self-promotion, although the cult of the self has reached such dizzying proportions in American society that such behavior is almost expected. But there is an even sadder irony that this was carried out in the name of journalism.
Chris Hedges use of hyperbole in his writing is somewhat wearing, and I think he conveniently forgets the enormous contribution to the progressive Left Arianna Huffington has made. While there is much to criticize about the HuffPost’s business model, it has at least created new jobs for serious journalists and a hub for progressives to discuss and organize.
But there’s no denying Hedges is also making a powerful point. There is something inherently wrong with a multi million dollar business being made off the back of free labor.
The merger has also left a rather bitter aftertaste in the blogosphere with many believing the Huff Post sold out. Writes spurned Huff Post blogger Mayhill Fowler:
What is really intriguing is that Arianna decided to go corporate rather than double down on the Huff Post strengths. First of all, this decision gives the lie to her frequent assertion this past year that she is pro Main and con Wall Street. Of course, the hypocrisy of her “let’s hear it for the little people” mantra has already been undercut by her refusal to pay bloggers like me. And I had been waiting for the moment when senators like John Kerry and economists like Robert Reich finally realized that they cannot say one thing and do another: to talk sympathy for working people and yet blog at a site that treats its writers badly. Eventually, celebrity blogging at Huff Post was always going to become the modern equivalent of a membership in an all-white, all-male club: a choice politicians, however reluctantly, would have to avoid. It was only a matter of time.
I am reluctant to pile on because I do have a lot of respect for Arianna and what she has achieved. But I do see both sides of the story and have serious problems with the online content farming model that AOL will inevitably bring to the Huffington Post. I still don’t know whether the move was good or bad for journalism, but the systemic flaws in the profit at all costs ideology cannot be a positive for the industry as a whole.
Ben Cohen is the editor and founder of The Daily Banter. He lives in Washington DC where he does podcasts, teaches Martial Arts, and tries to be a good father. He would be extremely disturbed if you took him too seriously.