I've written on my personal blog about my extreme objection to Arianna Huffington and the Huffington Post's model of using the work of others for free, then selling ads around it. (Net result: bloggers and writers get "exposure," Arianna gets money from ad sales.)
As a journalist, I have made repeated requests for an interview with La Huffington on the subject...and gotten nowhere.
Now our friends at the Chicago Reader (a fellow Association of Alternative Newsweeklies publication) have found that Arianna's site is committing a new outrage: it's lifting, verbatim, the newspaper listings from the Reader and presenting them in toto on the Huffington Post site.
Without permission. Without pay. That's called theft, Arianna.
And it's not just the Reader. It's Time Out Chicago. And Centerstage. And the Decider. And lots more from the Reader.
The editors of those papers are, naturally, P.O.'d. Fortunately for them, they have not been through a levee collapse, dereliction of government at all levels, the ongoing I-10 construction nightmare, Derrick Shepherd and Vince Marinello and Ellenese Brooks-Simms, the Army Corps of Engineers, continued civic malfeasance on a scale that would make the Duvalier régime blush, crime that would be ridiculous if it wasn't so tragic, and a football team that sends us reaching for the Xanax every Monday. In short, the rest of the country don't know from P.O.'d, and we could teach them a thing or three.
So I'll take up cudgels here, and draft this personal note to Arianna:
Dear Ms. Huffington:
There's a young man who sits in a drab cube outside my office. His name is Alex Woodward. Talented fellow. While you're up in Malibu, bathing in koala milk or whatever, dictating your latest "progressive" missive while you plan your next Bill Maher appearance, Alex spends every day typing listings into a database for the benefit of our readers in print and online. He works hard, he does a damn good job, and, like most journalists, he's not paid enough. But we do pay him a living wage, which is more than you do for most of your flying Web monkeys. (As your minion Ken Lerer told Cnet.com in 2007, paying for content is "not our financial model.")
Good Lord. Even the most rapacious of outsourcers pay the poor sods who actually make their own salaries possible, even if it's just a pittance. But they don't have the stones to call themselves "progressive" and then go on Jon Stewart.
If people want to write for you for free, that's their lookout -- and, in my opinion, their stupidity. ("Exposure" never paid the rent, much less bought a po-boy lunch.) And if you want to call yourself a "progressive," that's your lookout as well, though all it does is cheapen a language that's already on fire sale in our devalued linguistic economy.
If you or your minions ever copy-and-paste anything out of our copyrighted publication (or from our city's fine bloggers), you'll find out just how P.O.'d we can get down here in the 504.
We don't need you, we don't want you, and we're not scared of you. We've got Southern lawyers, we've got righteous anger, and we've got bloggers with tongues sharper than a Beverly Hills surgeon's knife.
And if Chicago wants to lead the charge against your faux-"progressive" politics, we'll be in lockstep behind them. Just don't touch our stuff. Yahearinme?
Mess with Chicago, or Texas, or Malibu all you want. But don't mess with New Orleans.
Here's what our Chicago compatriots say about your lifting of their material. And I agree, heartily:
You want to do a post that says, "According to Jessica Hopper, Bon Iver rules, check 'em out, go here for the info," fine. But taking an entire concert preview is bush league. Doing it as a practice is just beneath contempt. If the future of journalism--which everyone keeps telling me the Huffington Post represents--is a bunch of search-engine optimization scams, we have bigger problems than Sam Zell's bad investment strategies.