[This is being reposted due to this update]
Earlier we ran the item below from Business Insider that reported a big firing of AOL freelancers at the new AOL Huffington Post, which is quickly turning itself in the a full fledged Internet newspaper that seems to have some jumpy at the New York Times. It turns out that news item was false. And this new report — unlike the first report — is solid. Here’s a note that the Huffington Post’s Peter S Goodman sent to Henry Blodget.
See below for the original short TMV item and my own comments on the HP and the controversy. The email:
While we much appreciate your interest in the many exciting happenings here at the Huffington Post Media Group inside AOL, your item this morning reporting a mass termination of freelancers staffing AOL’s business and finance sites is simply false. No such communication has gone out. In fact, we have been hiring many freelancers into full-time jobs and will continue to do so in the weeks to come.
Worse, is the implication in your post that we are replacing high-paid veterans with inexperienced writers in order to cut cost. We have been investing aggressively in building a modern newsroom at our headquarters here in New York, and I would delighted to show you around anytime you like. One simple walk across the newsroom floor should quickly dispel any sense that we are diminishing scope and ambition, or opting for penny-pinching mode. We have been bringing in dozens of highly talented and, in many cases, deeply experienced writers and editors to staff our sections, and this is a process that has only begun. As someone who has worked for two decades inside traditional newspaper newsrooms — all of them now figuring out how to make do with fewer people — it is genuinely exciting to be building out this increasingly teeming place.
It is true that we are shifting from relying on freelancers and contractors to investing in full-time staff. We feel this gives everyone greater security and a shared mission. And we do want people right here in the newsroom, to participate in the sorts of spontaneous conversations that often yield the best ideas. This is something about which we are unabashed and even proud: We are assembling a first-rate group of full-time staff to take us forward. In many cases, we have been hiring people who have previously been freelancers into these full-time jobs. And, in some cases where geographic reach is needed (for example, autos coverage in Detroit), we are keeping people in place beyond the company’s core offices in New York, Washington, and Los Angeles. In many instances we are directing the freelance budget in its entirety to hiring the best staff people. This is not about cost savings; it’s about aiming for journalistic excellence, and having on hand the most dedicated, talented and highly motivated group of people in our midst to pursue that goal.
Finally, I want to take on directly this persistent idea that people who have been paid to write and report will be replaced by people who write for free. This is simply not true. We are, again, transitioning from paying people to write under freelance contracts to people paid to write on a full-time staff basis. At the same time, we will continue to embrace the contributions of a wholly different group of people — our enormous, diverse, vibrant community of bloggers. These are people who are free to write or not write as they choose. We own no claim on their time, or guarantee on production. We rely on their insights, their expertise and their entertainment value, and they ride our platform to promote their books, advance their causes, and reach a bigger audience with their ideas. This has been a productive relationship for many — not least, our swiftly growing readership — and it will continue and expand across the AOL sites that are now part of our shared Huffington Post Media Group Enterprise. But the blogging component will not replace the work of hired, professional journalists who write for us as members of our staf.
Thanks very much for allowing me to clarify this, and please don’t hesitate to take me up on an offer for a tour.
Our original item which was based on inaccurate news source material:
A shakeup at the new AOL Huffington post: AOL freelancers have reportedly been fired. Arianna Huffington is coming under a lot of fire but the bottom line is: the “new” Huffington Post will be a new kind of journalistic model — and it is still taking shape. As someone who spent a good many years freelancing in India, Spain and Bangladesh, news about freelancers being fired is not welcome. But we are watching the emergence of a new kind of media creature in the new Huffington Post which keeps adding more original reporting content and promises to give the traditional print media a run for its money. Literally.
A FINAL THOUGHT: Many in the old and new media are going a bit haywire over the AOL Huffington Post merger. As noted here in various posts, the HP has essentially started to hire some of the country’s top print journalists (Howard Fineman and others) and is quickly creating what has been largely conceptual until now: an actual online newspaper that operates as a newspaper, providing not just analysis and opinion but lots of original reporting. There have been bits and pieces of this on the Internet over the years, but a full-fledged original reporting filled website with huge financial resources that in effect is the equivalent of a national newspaper has been mostly an idea.
Print media is now on life support and over the past year there has been a major brain drain to new emerging infooutlets. The AOL Huffington Post in the newspaper realm. The Daily Beast Newsweek in the news magazine realm. Both hired on some of the best new and old media journalists and analysts — in essence re-inflating a journalistic balloon that was deflating as print media started to seriously wane.
One false claim that has come up repeatedly is that the HP doesn’t pay anyone. As someone who also did some blog posts on the HP from time to time, it was always understood by all who contributed that people who did blog posts did them as most blog posts are done: for no payment. But the HP always had some reporters and editors who were paid. Some reports after the AOL Huffington Post merger suggesting no one was ever paid on the were inaccurate at the time.
So now we have this report about a mass firing of AOL freelancers which also does not accurately lay out what has been going on.
And, once again, it’s worth repeating: what the HP is doing is a major milestone in 21st century media evolution. It’s pumping money into setting itself up as an original content, original reporting Internet newspaper with an expanded staff which will still keep its write-when-you-want unpaid bloggers.
If you had to predict two years ago, you would have predicted the New York Times or another big print daily would do a massive expansion into original reporting on the web and quickly make the transition from print to cyberspace. But newspapers and newsmagazines have been in survival mode, some talented editors and reporters saw the writing on the wall and moved to web reporting opportunities – -and the HP is now shoring up to fill in the gap left by an ailing print media most notabled for its cutbacks, not expansion. And newspapers? Most of their websites are seemingly perfunctory operations that compliment or duplicate their print versions, or represent a slow transition or a seemingly stubborn concession that they have to be on the web. What’s going on at the HP is a different animal emerging as print media increasingly appears to be an endangered species.