Huffington has it both ways on blogging
Kara Swisher at All Things D asked Huffington whether her news site, The Huffington Post, will face increased pressure to start paying its contributors as it expands under new CEO Eric Hippeau. "We pay all our people," Huffington insisted, referring, apparently, to Huffpo's staffers rather than its hundreds of very much unpaid volunteers. She continued:
We pay all our people. The bloggers are not really journalists. The bloggers are politicians, actors, chefs, poets. They're people who every now and then want to dip into the national conversation with whatever is on their minds. That's not a job. So the idea that they're journalists we don't pay is not based on any fact.There are a few problems with this. For one thing, by no means are all of Huffpo's bloggers "politicians, actors, chefs, poets," etc. Plenty of them are straight-up professional journalists, like this "award-winning journalist," and this "pioneering Latina television journalist." And lots more of Huffpo's bloggers are professional writers of other sorts -- writers who are using their Huffpo blogs to promote their books, yes, but still full-time scribes who, one way or another, depend for their living on getting paid for what they write.
So there's that. But there's also the fact that Huffington is only too willing to cast her bloggers in the role of journalists for the purposes of bringing credit to Huffpo. In her public life as a dispenser of sound bites, Huffington has often conflated journalists and bloggers, as when she wrote in The Huffington Post Complete Guide to Blogging that "[b]logging has been the greatest breakthrough in popular journalism since Tom Paine," or as when she said that any shield law enacted to protect reporters should cover "bloggers and other independent journalists."
Then, of course, there are Huffpo's forays into "citizen journalism," a term that, by its very name, implies that the volunteer postings of amateurs constitute a form of journalism. As Huffington told the Senate subcommittee on communications, technology and the internet:
"Citizen Journalism" is shorthand for a collection of methods for producing content by harnessing the power of a site's community of readers, and making it a key element of the site's editorial output. These engaged readers can, among other things, recommend stories, produce raw data for original reported stories, write original stories themselves, record exclusive in-the-field video, search through large amounts of data or documents for hidden gems and trends, and much more. By tapping this resource, online news sites can extend their reach and help redefine newsgathering in the digital age.So which is it, Arianna? Do you see Huffpo's bloggers as a valuable "resource" who can "write original stories" and "help define newsgathering"? Or is Simon Dumenco right when he accuses you of dismissing them as "marginal, fly-by-night, 'come and go' wannabes"? You can't have it both ways.