This guy knows what’s up.HuffPost has gone and stepped in it, big time: they asked Hollywood star and geek icon Wil Wheaton if they could repost a blog he wrote, with the total payment being zilch, nothing, nada.
And he got mad. And he got mad to his 3 million Twitter followers, plus a bunch of folks who’ve now seen it second-hand. (Here’s the full post.) And now HuffPost has its pants around its ankles.
Here’s some of what Wil said:
“…it’s the principle of the thing. Huffington Post is valued at well over fifty million dollars, and the company can absolutely afford to pay contributors. The fact that it doesn’t, and can get away with it, is distressing to me.”
What’s pathetic is not just that HuffPost thought “extend your reach” was going to sound remotely appealing to someone like Wil Wheaton, which is just laughable, but that the company, as a policy, does not EVER pay its contributors. You know, the people without whom there would be no HuffingtonPost.
This isn’t the first time, by far, artists have been asked to work for free. I bet you could find a request in your city right now on Craigslist to submit work gratis for some “worthy” project or another. And it’s sad; it deeply undervalues creators of all kinds. I tell high school and college students to never do unpaid internships for the same reason: if you’re not being paid, you’re not being appreciated, and you’re not being treated as an equal. It’s just not worth it, most of the time.
That said, there are times when it makes some sense to work for free, or at least to offer free submissions. My article on APracticalWedding (reposted to Refinery29) was something I wrote on my own and submitted as a free article. But I knew from the outset that APracticalWedding.com did not pay for articles (which means Refinery29 did get a bargain, but I was grateful for the boost). I knew that post was free work, but it was something I really wanted to talk about, because I had a genuine interest in helping other people who may be in a similar situation, and because I read APracticalWedding so often that I felt, in a way, that I needed to give back somehow. So I’m completely at peace with that decision.
But the situation with Huffington Post is different. What do you think? Would you write for them for free?