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Friday, March 30, 2012

Huffington Post Doesn't Have to Retroactively Pay Bloggers, Judge Rules

Posted By on Fri, Mar 30, 2012 at 3:13 PM

click to enlarge Sure, they had middle-class money and secure employment. But at least we have Twitter.
  • Sure, they had middle-class money and secure employment. But at least we have Twitter.

It takes a lot of hustle to make money as a freelance journalist. You have to constantly network, send dozens of pitches a week, juggle several assignments at once -- all for low pay.


Last April, about 9,000 unpaid Huffington Post bloggers turned their hustle up a notch and sued AOL for not giving them a share from the company's $315 million purchase of the online publication. They wanted $105 million from their boss.

Today U.S. District Judge John Koeltl knocked the hustle when he dismissed suit, saying the bloggers knew they weren't going to get paid when they signed up for the job.

"No one forced the plaintiffs to give their work to The Huffington Post for publication and the plaintiffs candidly admit that they did not expect compensation," Koeltl said in his opinion, reported Bloomberg. "The principles of equity and good conscience do not justify giving the plaintiffs a piece of the purchase price when they never expected to be paid, repeatedly agreed to the same bargain, and went into the arrangement with eyes wide open."

The bloggers, who filed for class-action status, argue that HuffPo unjustly profited from their work and offered nothing more than exposure -- to the site's boasted 30 million readers every month. For a young writer, coming of age in an economic crisis and with the journalism industry on shaky financial footing, all those potential eyeballs are undoubtedly tempting. Of course, many j-school professors do tell their students, "Never let anyone publish your work for free."

Between HuffPo and Patch.com, AOL has claimed in recent years to be venturing into the journalism frontier, a landscape of sustainable business models. These models stress efficiency -- as many Search Engine Optimized stories by as few (hungry and skilled) reporters for as little pay as possible. It's supposed to look good on investor summaries, but effectively discourages quality work.

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Albert Samaha

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