If I put myself in Arianna Huffington’s shoes, sure, I can understand the temptations of selling the Huffington Post to AOL. What I cannot condone is her absolute lack of loyalty to the many bloggers who essentially built her site for her. By selling out and reaping the benefits of such corporatization with no payment for those who contributed to the Huffington Post from the beginning demonstrates the absence of her commitment to independent media values.
The backlash Huffington received after her business deal with AOL was justified. Given teh importance of the Huffington Post’s “mullet” strategy (business in the front, party in the back), HuffPo bloggers were the real heart of the site and kept it rooted in the sincerity typically characteristic of independent media. By not compensating these bloggers and contributors once the site turned a substantial profit, Huffington effectively exploited them, assuming their contributions were voluntary.
And they were voluntary — when the site was independent. But none of these bloggers and contributors ever signed up to writer for a corporate sellout, and certainly not for free. When HuffPo was still independent, the bloggers felt more compelled to contribute because they understood the kind of work and ideals they were contributing to, and they understood that receiving payment from a still growing independent media outlet would be an unfair expectation. But when Huffington sold to AOL, all of these ideals were cast aside, and the work of the contributors, which garnered the site its reputation and popularity, was more or less done in vain.
In a practical sense, I understand why some independent outlets go corporate — sometimes, it is simply too difficult to stay afloat without selling out. And with Arianna Huffington, who is used to having a lavish lifestyle, it is even less surprising. But if she really cared about the independent media values for which the Huffington Post was so respected and if she were true to the progressive ideals the site promoted in its content, she would have at least taken some measure to ensure that all those who helped her build her empire were fairly compensated for their efforts, because without them, the Huffington Post would never have reached the level of popularity for it to even be considered for the corporatization that Arianna has made her fortunes from.