CWA Newspaper Guild Boycott Of Huff Post Over

CWA Newspaper Guild

Oct. 20, 2011

An open letter to our members and supporters:

First, thanks to everyone who has supported our labor action this year by ceasing unpaid contributions to the Huffington Post, and by helping spread the word to friends and colleagues.

We have asked, from the beginning, that Arianna Huffington and her staff meet with us to discuss the need for a model that compensates journalists for their efforts. Such meetings have now taken place, and the company has publicly pledged to work with us to resolve our differences.

We are pleased to see HuffPost leaders stating so clearly the importance of paid journalism, not only to our society as a whole, but to their own business model.

Now that we’ve opened a dialog with HuffPost, it makes sense to us to set aside the boycott as we attempt to work together and move forward. There is no single, clear cut answer to what constitutes an acceptable unpaid op/ed piece, when casual commentary crosses the line into researched analysis, or when a discussion about ideas becomes an “assignment.” These issues will need to be monitored and reassessed continually, and we think that can best happen by building a constructive relationship with HuffPost. However you feel about the Huffington Post, they are clearly a major player in emerging models of online journalism.

Already, we have seen change. We believe that HuffPost and its new parent company, AOL, have become much more careful over the past year not to treat unpaid bloggers like employees. They no longer assign them to cover specific events, nor credential them to do so. They have, on at least some occasions, rejected unpaid submissions based on the amount of original reporting they contain. Their calls for new community bloggers have been very clear that the work will be unpaid, and that contributors will own rights to their work and are free to do as much or as little as they want.

Ending our involvement in the boycott means that our members and allies are free to once again contribute blogs and commentary to HuffPost, including pieces that inform the public about these historic times in our labor movement. And please don’t hesitate to give interviews or share information with the paid reporting staff of the Huffington Post — we are supportive of their work and happy to see them growing in number.

However, we still encourage all professional journalists not to work for free. Giving away your labor in the hope of gaining exposure or experience is a losing proposition. It makes no more sense than stopping into a local restaurant and offering to wait tables, in the hope that you would eventually get hired onto staff. Why would any company pay for a service they can get for free? Your work and skills are valuable, so please consider donating them only to support those causes you hold dear.

Going forward, we believe that organizing freelancers will be key to maintaining pay standards for online content. We will continue to create and evolve new models that bring independent media workers together to pursue shared goals and better their economic fortunes, and to work in coalition with other groups that share this goal, including our friends and allies at the National Writers Union.

The end of the boycott does not affect the lawsuit lead by Jonathan Tasini which represents specific people who believe they are owed back pay for Huffington Post contributions. To learn more, visit http://www.huffingtonpostlawsuit.com/

And the Newspaper Guild will continue to closely monitor and respond to issues of unpaid work, including wage hour violations, at media companies. We encourage members and the public at large to send us tips at guild@cwa-union.org.

Thanks for all you do. By working together, we can continue to affect change in our industry, and in the lives of individual workers.

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