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Wednesday, 19 August 2015

Why I won't read HuffPo Australia

This morning we've got Lisa Wilkinson, from Channel Nine's Today Show, announcing that she has been selected by Arianna Huffington to be editor-at-large for the global media brand's Australian edition. I watched online as Wilkinson gushed about the opportunity. For her it's great because she'll be paid to contribute to HuffPo Australia, but traditionally the company does not pay its writers. And that's the reason I won't read its blogs.

Back in 2011 when Huffington sold the brand to AOL for $315 million she had an opportunity to recompense all those writers whose quality contributions had been the reason for the brand's success for all those years. But that never happened. At the time, there was a lot of discontent among the HuffPo's stable of regular writers about this eventuality but Huffington remained unconvinced and refused to share the wealth with those who had made the brand so successful, the writers.

Now the brand has 15 properties globally including some in countries like Germany and France where, presumably, the writing is done in languages other than English. So even if you don't read the websites you know that there is a continual stream of original content being produced. But the writers are still not paid.

In this time of change when the media landscape has been impacted in all of its parts by the new technology of the internet, there is a need for people of conscience to make sure that writers who work to generate content for media websites get paid a fair wage for their efforts. Evidently, this kind of effort is difficult for publishers to exert. When I wrote for magazines - I stopped doing it in mid-2012, partly because of shrinking budgets - I found that the word rate you could get for newer magazines was always lower than what older publications offered their writers. The landscape changes to reflect the state of the broader environment.

Now, there are word factories where writers are recompensed with ridiculous per-article rates to produce what is still expected to be quality work. And it's just not on. I would never work for those kinds of rates. Ever. You have to have standards. Otherwise your livelihood is just eroded until it becomes impossible to even make a decent living. Without a fair and objective media, where would we be? The grouches and naysayers might scoff at those epithets, but I still believe in them, and I believe that it is impossible to have a functioning democracy without a fair and objective media, one reliably isolated from the corroding influence of unbridled capital.

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