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Arts writers declare 'strike' against Huffington Post

February 28, 2011 |  5:30 pm

Huffington Arianna Huffington, the co-founder and editor-in-chief of the Huffington Post, has long espoused progressive political views, which has made her website's reliance on unpaid writers a rather awkward sticking point for the left-leaning pundit. Now Huffington's values are being put to the test by a group of arts writers, largely from Southern California, who are asking to be paid for their contributions to the site.

Writers for the websites ArtScene and Visual Art Source said Monday that they are declaring a "strike" against HuffPo, to which they have contributed content since the summer of 2010. In their announcement, the writers listed two primary demands: that a pay schedule be proposed and initiated for all contributing writers and bloggers, and that paid promotional material no longer be posted alongside editorial content.

They also objected to the HuffPo's publishing of catalogue essays — non-journalistic pieces that usually serve a commercial function for art galleries — without separating them from other editorial content.

"It is unethical to expect trained and qualified professionals to contribute quality content for nothing," said the writers in their announcement.

"It is extremely unethical to not merely blur but eradicate the distinction between the independent and informed voice of news and opinion and the voice of a shill."

Bill Lasarow, the publisher and editor of the two websites, said in an interview that the move is "not a hostile act in any sense whatsoever," but added that the writers felt "like they were being taken advantage of by the company to make an enormous profit."

He said that the action was prompted at least in part by the HuffPo's recent sale to AOL for a reported $315 million.

Writers for ArtScene and Visual Art Source are located all over the country, but most of them are based in Southern California. The network of freelance journalists are paid by Lasarow to write about the visual arts, galleries, museums and other cultural topics.

Lasarow said that the writers initially agreed to allow their blog posts for the two sites to appear on HuffPo with the knowledge that they were not employees and that they would not be paid. He said writers from the sites contributed content to HuffPo at least once a week on average.

Representatives of HuffPo have not responded yet to the call for strike, Lasarow said.

RELATED:

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— David Ng

Photo: Arianna Huffington arrives at the Vanity Fair Oscar Party at the Sunset Tower on Sunday. Credit: Carlo Allegri / Associated Press

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