I subscribe to the Huffington Post’s newsletter. But I feel dirty about it. Arianna Huffington’s business model hinges on Not Paying The Writer, and as a Writer who needs Paying, I find this business model abhorrent and not-scalable, to use my husband’s cringe-inducing business-y language.

But dammit, there’s always good stuff on that site. Grr. (Do I contradict myself? Very well, I contradict myself. I am large. I contain multitudes. Most of them SHAME ME, but still.)

Anyway, today’s newsletter starts, “I was asked to give a speech this morning at a journalism conference in Washington sponsored by the Federal Trade Commission. The topic, as it so often seems to be these days, is what can be done to save journalism? Since Rupert Murdoch was scheduled to address the conference a little before me, I thought this would be a good time to take a look at Murdoch’s increasingly bellicose war against new media sites that aggregate the news, the increasingly desperate revenue models being discussed for online news, and what, in fact, needs to be done to ensure that journalism will not only survive, but thrive. The new paths to media success are still being charted, and much remains uncertain. But this much is clear: we can’t use an analog map and expect to find our way in a digital world.”


OK, I have fanned myself and can continue. But this much is clear: Since I want to survive at least until my children reach Bat Mitzvah age, I cannot “click to read more.” A mogul who refuses to pay writers is gonna tell us all how to save journalism? Nifty! Pray tell, is the business model “writers should get another source of income”?

Someone feel free to summarize her argument. I’m not clicking on that link. I’m not.

I have friends who’ve written for HuffPo when they have something to promote: a book, a radio show, a product. I can’t say I wouldn’t do the same. (See aforementioned Walt Whitman quote, and self-loathing.) But this is not independent, sustainable journalism, which is something our country needs; it’s using one platform to promote another. It’s a giant circle jerk. HuffPo may publish your fabulous reporting (though it’s more likely to publish your opinion on the reporting someone else did), but someone, at some point, has to PAY for the reporting to happen.

Also, Michaela Watkins is a genius.


  1. Fawn December 1, 2009 at 7:21 pm

    “Information wants to be free” was not intended to conclude with the words “…of charge.”

    Sing it, sister.

  2. Robin Aronson December 3, 2009 at 11:41 am

    So, true, so true. SO TRUE! Terrific post.

  3. x December 19, 2009 at 2:17 pm

    it seems like everyone wants everything to be free — except for the stuff that they work on.

    one thing that is interesting to me is how much people spend on the technology on which they access their free content — iPods, computers, home audio/visual systems, connectivity fees. people are willing to pay for the technology, but not the content which makes the technology have a point. i think it would be interesting and depressing to see where the money is going these days.

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