The Huffington Post just can’t seem to get its act together when it comes to paying, or not paying, freelancers. When Patricia Chui emailed freelancers at Moviefone, fired them, then asked them to contribute for free, HuffPo said it was a mistake, and then fired her very quickly afterward.
The Huffington Post said this wasn’t their policy, that they don’t ask freelancers to contribute for free, but we just received an email from cartoonist Matt Bors, who was definitely asked by HuffPo to do just that. In a post on his blog, he explains that he was emailed last year by HuffPo to write for free, even though the site’s PR head Mario Ruiz had emailed him just recently and told Bors that they don’t ask people to do that:
Perhaps Patricia Chui was wrong about telling the freelancers they would be asked to blog for free. Mario says that’s not their policy. But they must define ‘freelance writers’ very narrowly, only including people who they have already decided to pay because they certainly do ask freelancers to contribute original work for free. I received this email from The Huffington Post’s Associate Blog Editor on August 11, 2010, a day before I entered Afghanistan.
Hi Ted and Matt –
I read about your fascinating adventures planned for Afghanistan and was wondering if either of you would have interest in posting or cross posting your work as a blog on the Huffington Post. We’d give it very prominent placement and would be happy to link back to your websites, etc. Let me know what you think — I think our readers would be very into the work you all are doing there.
When Bors replied and said he only contributes for money, HuffPo wrote back and said “Sadly, we don’t have money in the budget for paying our bloggers.”
Hmmm… That seems to be exactly what HuffPo claims not to do. Has the policy changed since that email? Maybe it has. One thing is for sure, the longer this goes on, the more confusing it gets. At least we get paid for thinking about it though.
We just received the following statement from Mario Ruiz. Take from this what you will.
From before Day One, the Huffington Post has reached out to interesting voices to be a part of our group blog, which is what we did with Matt Bors, who was asked if he wanted to post or cross-post his work on our site, with links to his own site – or any of his other endeavors. Inviting someone to utilize our platform to help their work be seen by as many people as possible is in no way the same as asking someone who has freelanced for AOL in the past to do that same work for free. Comparing the two is confusing the fact that we are both a platform on which thousands of people from around the world blog and a journalistic enterprise with hundreds of staff editors, writers, and reporters. We are converting paid freelancers to paid full-timers as part of a clear editorial direction to build a cohesive team of talented, dedicated journalists across all our sites – from politics to style to entertainment to travel. Unlike people who are being paid, whether full-timers or freelancers, who have deadlines and filing responsibilities, our bloggers post whatever they like, whenever they like, and do so for the same reason people post from free on platforms such as Facebook, Twitter, Yelp, and Trip Advisor: to connect and be heard. It’s the same reason hundreds of people go on TV shows – from Anderson Cooper’s to Rachel Maddow’s to Bill O’Reilly’s – every week without being paid.