Several days ago I got a personal email from Arianna Huffington—or so I thought. Even though I’ve been contributing articles to Huffington for a little over a year, I have never actually had the pleasure of meeting Ms. Huffington and my imagination went wild when I saw that the subject line read “Exciting News.”
In my fantasy, Ms. Huffington discovered that with so many bloggers, I got lost in the shuffle and apologized for not inviting me to the annual holiday party. After all, I have been writing (for free) and had driven a fair amount of traffic to the Huffington Post website these past 12 months.
Or perhaps she was writing to express her gratitude for the hundreds of comments generated on several pieces I had written that addressed racial disparities in education, employment and criminal justice--all topics that are near and dear to her heart.
Or better yet, maybe this was the e-mail informing me that as a valued blogger for Huffington, I would henceforth be compensated for doing my small part in helping to build a site worth 315 million dollars to AOL.
After shaking off the reverie and skimming the first paragraph, it was apparent I was only one of 9000 bloggers receiving the exact same e-mail, and although it was difficult to feel special, I pressed on.
By the second paragraph Ms. Huffington assured me (and 8999 others) of our value when she stated: “our bloggers have always been a very big part of HuffPost’s identity – and will continue to be a very big part of who we are.”
Knowing Ms. Huffington’s uncompromising commitment to equity and fairness, this was encouraging. I was momentarily gratified by her acknowledgement and felt confident that Huffington was using this occasion to publicly ‘walk the talk’ and drive home a point that she (Huffington) had made countless times in numerous forums about sharing wealth. After all, what better opportunity could there be for Ms. Huffington to demonstrate the very thing she purports in nearly every interview, article and speech about corporate greed and income disparities? And with 315 million dollars and an expected readership of 250 million around the world, why wouldn’t they?
When I finished paragraph seven, my hopes were dashed and I sighed with disappointment. This was the part where Ms. Huffington thanked me for being “such a vital part of the Huffpost family” and wished me “All The Best.” That was it.
Thinking that perhaps I had read too quickly, I went back and carefully combed through the entire letter again--line by line. There was no mention of compensation—not even a Happy meal.
As a freelance writer, speaker and filmmaker, money has never been my main motivator and yet, I don't subscribe to mythologies that insist that only real artists starve nor do I begrudge those who aspire to have great wealth.
I've always respected the gumption of Arianna and must admit that in the beginning, I liked having a platform and being able to say that I wrote for Huffington. Not so much anymore which is why I've decided to be in solidarity with 'career journalists' (which I am not one) who make their living solely from writing and often risking relationships, health and even their lives to get to the bottom of a story.
It seems that the old adage is true. More often than not we humans teach and preach the very things we need to learn the most. And usually, it is the very forces we rebel against and denounce that eventually expose our own vulnerabilities. Ms Huffington is no exception to the rule—no matter how many times she uses the words ‘corporate’ and ‘swine’ in the same sentence.
There is absolutely nothing illegal or corrupt about the transaction between Arriana Huffington and AOL. It is simply the status quo.
Although my Huffpost (free) blogging days are over for now, I am grateful for the lessons learned and the reminder that sometimes righteousness is a mere diversionary tactic meant to camouflage our weaknesses--and mostly from ourselves.
In spite of a giant opportunity missed, I do wish Arianna, “all the best"--especially in her endeavors to persuade the public that she is indeed not one of the pigs at the trough she so eloquently writes about in her book.