How the Huffington Post Got Filthy Rich

Posted on Wednesday, 21st March 2012 @ 10:30 AM by Text Size A | A | A

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Thursday, August 26, 2010


“Lincoln freed the slaves.” ~~my mom and probably your mom when chores were being left for her to do.

Not long ago, I got this email on my tip line (emphasis added):

Hello, The Huffington Post is working on assigning reporters to political micro-beats for the 2010 midterm elections. We recently read your blog posts on your blog and thought you might be interested in covering one of our micro-beats. We are looking for reporters to cover Congressional candidate Dan Seals, as well as Senatorial candidates Alexi Giannoulias and Mark Kirk. You would be attending town hall meetings, stump speeches and following congressmen and senators on the campaign trail. This is a fantastic way to get clips on the site and to break news. To be considered for the position, we need an email containing three pieces of information: 1) Where you live 2) Why you are qualified for the position, 2 paragraphs on relevant experience, resume etc. 3) Clips We would love to hear from you! Thanks, Signature

My first thought was that this was a joke. It seemed to be offering a “position”. The inquiry even asked for a resume, just like a real employer would ask of a real perspective employee. But that couldn’t be right. Huffington, and pretty much all blogs on all sides of the aisle, even the moneymakers, rely on the freely given labor of people who like to write and see their writing widely read. Just for the record, Huffington Post makes money. Some say a lot of money.

Since I already have 5 years of blogging to use as a writing sample and an already written CV for law, writing and consulting, I decided to email them back to see what would happen. Lucky me. I was chosen. I received this email two days later: Hi Ellen, Thank you for your quick response! We’re really excited to have you on board for this project. As of right now we are still trying to figure out exactly how this microbeat will be run, but you are definitely on our minds! Please email me if you have any questions whatsoever. Thanks again for being in touch! We are looking to make this project a fairly large part of the Huffington Post come fall, so we are all very enthusiastic. Best, Signature I did have a question. What was the budget?. Heck, they were asking for video clips and a huge time investment. I thought there should be a budget, at least for equipment if nothing else. No response.

A few weeks later, I received this email: Hello, Congratulations! You have been selected to become a part of an elite squad of citizen reporters who will be covering the midterm elections. In order to get started, we would love for you to send us a picture and a short bio, (as well as your phone number, if you haven’t already.) We will add you as bloggers, give you a login and you can start writing away. We are very excited for you to get started. Thanks so much for agreeing to get involved with such an important project. Signature Associate Social News Editor The Huffington Post I was busy, so I didn’t respond right away.

Then, over the weekend, I had a few minutes and re-asked my question to this Associate News Editor, who presumably was higher in rank than the first person who contacted me who had no title after her name. What was the budget? I also asked for more details about the project. To her credit, at least she responded, but no answer to my question about the budget: Ms. Gill, Lovely to hear from you! Here is the basic rundown. You would essentially be on a beat, following your congressman to as many appearances as you can possibly get to, and keeping abreast of the issues in play. Every week, you would be responsible for a weekly round up of activity in your district, or a reported story on your congressman. We encourage you to also submit photos, videos or recordings. Your clips will have a national platform. It is really a fantastic opportunity. We will also have weekly conference calls, meetings and advising. Does that sound good to you? Does spending an inordinate amount of time and money helping someone else make a pile of money sound good to me? Uh, no. I didn’t respond, but she decided to shoot off another email to try and persuade me of the benefits: In addition, you can cross post anything you already blog with us and we will link back to your blog, thus giving you more traffic. If that is an easier commitment that could certainly work for us. We want this to work for you! Let me know.

What a crock. I imagine a lot of people will take the bait and work their little hoofies to the bone to help Arianna make her $12 to $16 million. This wouldn’t bother me so much except that employers all over the country are underpaying and overworking employees so they don’t have to hire. They do it because they can. No one even expects quality products anymore. Employees are afraid of losing their jobs and their insurance, so they do it, grumbling amongst each other, but never to the boss. Strike? Forgetaboutit. Workers gave up labor for racism and Ronald Reagan happy talk years ago. Frankly, if I’m going to volunteer my time, I think it’s better spent in the poor or senior communities. There are a lot of opportunities for attorneys to volunteer in ways that will actually help someone in need. Two of my favorites in our area are the Chicago Volunteer Legal Services and Illinois Pro Bono. I wonder if the Associate Social News Editor is interested in cross-posting this one…..

Posted by Ellen Beth Gill at 8/26/2010 07:57:00 AM

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