Why I Left The Huffington Post

Yesterday The Huffington Post “posted” the last piece I will write for them, probably, barring the serendipity of life.  Below is my email exchange with Roy Sekoff, the founding editor, on the subject.  Arianna Huffington, for her part, is surprisingly accessible via email; however, she never delivers bad news personally, it seems, but always leaves that task to Roy.  At least, so I deduce from the fact that so it has gone three times over the past year (last winter and then now) in email exchanges with Arianna and Roy about paying me for work.  And at the end of the day, that is the crux:  I want to be paid for my time and effort—or at a minimum, to get a little remuneration in return for the money I spend myself in order to do original reportage.  I would not expect to be paid for punditry.  The Huffington Post business model is to provide a platform for 6,000 opinionators to hold forth.  Point of view is cheap.  I would never expect to be paid there when the other 5,999 are not.  However, the journalism pieces I have done in the past year seem to me as good as anything HuffPost’s paid reporters Sam Stein and Ryan Grim produce.  Why do they get money, and I do not?  I don’t recall either of them writing the story about Barack Obama waxing large on “clinging to guns and religion,” which seems more and more as time goes by to be the one big story out of the last presidential election to live on.  Or at least it is the one that journalists and pundits are quoting regularly now.

So anyway here is my email exchange with Roy.  He has always seemed to be a good man, and he is nice in his emails, so I do not think he will mind, even though I am going to use them to make a few points about what Arianna & Co. do not seem to understand, although, of course maybe they just don’t think I’m a good enough reporter to be worthy of paying.

On Thu, Sep 23, 2010 at 3:37 PM, Mayhill Fowler ‪<junehill@aol.com>‬ wrote:

Dear Arianna and Roy,

Just to give you a heads up that I think today was my last post for you. Without pay and some editorial support and a reportorial community for belonging, I find it increasingly hard to find anything worthwhile to say.

Sorry that I never got a chance to meet you, Roy. My best to you, Arianna.


Sent from my iPad

From: Roy Sekoff

To: Mayhill Fowler

Cc: Arianna Huffington

Date: Fri, Sep 24, 2010 5:11 am

Mayhill — I’m sorry to hear that you don’t feel like continuing to be part of the HuffPost mix.  We’ve always appreciated your contributions to the group blog.

As we have transitioned from OffTheBus to our current Eyes and Ears initiative, we have indeed tried to build a community around citizen journalism — both between our editors and the citizen journalists, and among the journalists themselves.  Our Eyes and Ears editors hold daily conference calls with small groups of citizen reporters who are helping cover specific races in the 2010 election.  During these calls, the journalists run their pitches by our E&E editors, get feedback and pointers, and are also able to discuss problems, questions, comments, etc with the other journalists on the call.

In the days since OffTheBus, you obviously have transitioned into one of our top line bloggers.  With over 6,000 bloggers and 300 blog posts published a day, we tend to have less editorial back and forth with our group bloggers (although I know we always try to be responsive and I have personally maintained relationships with many who have been with us since “the old days”!).

I’m not sure where your interests are these days.  It has seemed more “big picture” than in-the-trenches coverage of specific races (the focus of our Eyes&Ears 2010 initiative), but if you would like to do some 2010 coverage or be part of the Eyes and Ears 2010 team, I’d love to put you in touch with the team of editors who are spearheading that effort.

In any case, the door is always open.  We enjoy  having you on HuffPost.

All the best,


On Fri, Sep 24, 2010 at 9:50 AM, Mayhill Fowler ‪<junehill@aol.com>‬ wrote:


Thank you for the reply. I appreciate your taking the time. I realize that the Huffington Post does not pay bloggers, but I have reached a point where I need more for my work. I’m not only an opinionator; I have this last year gone out and done actual reportage. I’m no longer going to do that for free. I’ve paid my dues in the citizen journalism department; I’m a journalist now.

So if you can’t find a place for me doing some kind of paid reporting, it’s goodbye. In the end, you know, it’s not so much about the money itself as the dignity it confers.

Best, Mayhill

Sent from my iPhone

From: Roy Sekoff

To: Mayhill Fowler junehill@aol.com

Cc: Arianna Huffington

Date: Fri, Sep 24, 2010 10:13 am

We completely understand and wish you all the best.  Roy

The dignity pay confers upon work.  I think this about sums it up.  So let this be a warning to you, citizen journalism enthusiasts.  In the end, what you are doing really is enhancing somebody else’s bottom line.  And think for a minute what it means when you throw yourself into working for a place, as I did, without first walking into the company’s human resources office to sign some paperwork that legally binds you and your employee to a relationship.  In my book Notes from a Clueless Journalist, which not too many have read (I may have been a bit ahead of the curve on publishing only for Kindle and cell phone), I go into the consequences here in a much darker way.   I’m not going to repeat any of that now, because in some sense what happened to me post-Bittergate and the way in which The Huffington Post did not have my back was a unique situation.  Although, now that I think about it, the scenario would make a movie:  citizen journalist gets a great story, but the poohbahs for whom she is writing don’t know her from Eve and can’t decide, first, whether to believe her or not, and then, second, as things get complicated whether, because of conflicting loyalties, to support her.  It is very much a story about class and hierarchy and relationship, about bias and trust and instinct—and maybe only a Tom Wolfe could write it.

Anyway, before I get sidetracked on Bittergate, let me move on to what I meant by support and community in my email to Arianna and Roy.  On a practical level, these are equally important, but I don’t think Roy understood me.  Maybe I should have tried to explain more, although it does seem to me that resignation emails should be pithy.  Here is the thing.  It is very hard to go out and do original reporting without some kind of backup, without knowing where you fit into the news site’s overall strategy for covering a specific topic, say the upcoming November elections.  I have always felt I was flying blind by not knowing what the paid reporters at HuffPost were investigating at the moment, because a reporter doesn’t want to duplicate a colleague’s work but contribute a different piece to the overall picture the news site is trying to construct.  Without some structure, chaos reigns.  In Clueless Journalist, I give some instances I experienced.

As for community, I have found that it is just too lonely to be out there on one’s own, without the interaction (even if it is of the prickly variety) and camaraderie that a workplace provides.  In my book, I call it “the terrifying loneliness of the road.”  And this comment comes from a woman who has always regarded herself as a loner, by the way.  Therefore, I don’t know what Roy means in his email by “the group blog.”  It’s as if he were referring to a book club or a loose affiliation of weekend bicyclists.  But I don’t know 99.9% of the other Huffington Post bloggers from Adam.  I have nothing in common with Larry David or John Kerry.  There is much more than six degrees of separation among us, and yet we all have posted at HuffPost.  I cannot think of any way in which the other bloggers and I make up “community,” with all that entails:  interaction, support, acquaintanceship in some fashion (even if only online).  As for Arianna herself, she is frequently in the Bay Area (as she will be this weekend for a book party), but she never invites me to any of her events—and I would bet that she does not others in the so-called “group” either.

Don’t get me wrong.  Arianna has many wonderful qualities.  I especially admire her wit and her continual reinvention of herself, in that classic American (especially immigrant American) way.  But she is also the quintessential opportunist.  And I cannot help but feel that, at the end of the day, as I thought I was proving myself to her to be worthy of journalism, she on her part was milking me for everything she could get before letting me go.  I’m surprised to find I have so few hard feelings.  Maybe it’s because media is a dog eat dog world.  I was taken aback in 2008 to discover the extent to which this is true.  But I also discovered, rather late in life, I admit, that journalism is the work I love.   Indeed I was born to do it.  (A story for another day.  Perhaps.)

Readers, here is something for you to ponder.  The Huffington Post just took on Howard Fineman, a fine political pundit and maybe one of the last to leave the sinking ship Newsweek.  I predict he will stay about a year.  Maybe two.  He doesn’t want Newsweek to be the last thing on his resume.  He needs some “street cred” in new media.  Then he will go on to a university lectureship (Princeton, perhaps) or a think tank or a foundation in order to round out a prestigious career.  Likely both Fineman and Huffington are under no illusions about the hire.  But here’s the thing from my point of view.  So Fineman is getting a six-figure salary.  Deserved.  But why is there not a quarter of that for me?  Below are the pitches I made to Arianna this past year, which she said she did not have the money to fund.  Below that are links to the original reportage, at my own expense, I did for HuffPost this year.  Read.  Then let me know—no holds barred—if you think I have proved myself worthy of remuneration.

1. I pitched Arianna and Roy on covering what was happening in Afghanistan from a civilian perspective.   I had heard some intriguing things from the coterie of military bloggers I know now—observations that they toss off as asides, because, drawn to the romance of conflict, they have not found them worthy of reportage.  I thought what was going on in Kabul and in the Clinton/Obama “civilian corps” would interest readers.  I wanted to cover the increased media outreach effort (often paying local outlets) from the State Department to citizens of Afghanistan and Pakistan.  I wanted to cover the new civilian corps, composed mostly of my generation, the first in the Peace Corps, who are now willing to give their lives (as indeed they have) to build better infrastructure for people they don’t know half way across the world.

2. I pitched Arianna and Roy on covering the Tea Party Convention in Nashville.  When they turned me down, I ended up posting on my own blog here.  Since so few people read it, I determined to make a bigger effort to stay with HuffPost.  I thought that I could make the  “numbers of eyeballs” at HuffPost enough reason to stay.  At least, I can say I gave it a try.  An ironic twist to the Nashville experience, was that at Saturday midnight the manager and the security head for the Gaylord Opryland Hotel came to me to complain that two young people (“on drugs”—well, who knows?) claiming to be from The Huffington Post had tried to get into the Sarah Palin dinner speech event before running away from the guards.  I had known that the way Eyes & Ears (the new HuffPost citizen journalism effort) had encouraged people via Twitter to cover the event (which anybody could have known would have very tight security) was a really bad idea.  But now I had to deal with the consequences?  If I needed any reminder, here was yet another how attached my name was to The Huffington Post.

3. I pitched Arianna on covering whatever it is that Secretary of State Hillary Clinton is up to.  Partly because of media budget cutbacks, but also because the reporters assigned to the State Department are a less-than-entrepreneurial lot, this story is not being told.  I offered to split the costs.  I was willing to move to Washington, D.C. to get this story and commute home one weekend a month, because I thought the story was and is important.  Because travel on trips abroad is expensive, I told Arianna and she and I together would determine what few trips I would make.  I wanted $2500 a month, with the understanding that after six months we would review whether or not we would go forward, and with the commitment on my part to train a younger person to take my place down the road.  (I said this because I am sure that Obama will have second term.)

Now check out a link or two to some of my original reporting for The Huffington Post in 2010.  I’m not even including the opinion pieces, even though I am one of only a handful of national pundits who totally get Barack Obama.  Then let me know if sending me off with “their best” was such a wise move for HuffPost.









Okay, so like all writers, looking over these pieces, I am not satisfied with my work.  But maybe I’m worth a tenth of Howard Fineman?

Update:  A note about Zennie Abraham.  I’m not sure who he is, but he is trying to capitalize on “Why I Left” with a number of untruths.  We have never met.  We spoke on the phone for 30 seconds in September 2007 when Amanda Michel, OfftheBus editor, thought we might link up at an Obama rally.  It never happened.  Abraham and I never spoke once about either Obama or politics in general.  Post-Bittergate, he wrote otherwise.  To say that I am “an enemy of the Obama Campaign” is a hoot.  Then and now, we have always had a good relationship.

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127 Responses to “Why I Left The Huffington Post”

  1. Mayhill,

    “Citizen journalism” is still journalism and it should not be equated with “journalism we don’t have to pay for.” To take advantage of people’s passion is wrong. Yes, we control when we give it away – I do writing for free. But as you point to Fineman’s coming on, really – if ever I felt a passion to post on HuffPo for no money? It’s gone.

    I think you made a good choice, a reasonable analysis and my main wish is that HuffPo can find a way to pay writers – and not just label them citizen journalists as if that means no pay is needed.

    Check out BlogHer.com and the Patch.com and Yahoo will be rolling out something too. I know BlogHer pays (and cares) and Patch is supposed to use freelancers but how much and with what pay is something I don’t know, likewise for Yahoo.

    Models are changing all the time – writers need to demonstrate that the models we will support include payment for our work.

    Thank you for writing about this so openly.


  2. Surely HuffPo is now big enough to handle “one size does NOT fit all.” Are you among the few who are setting the parameters for the new journalism? Are we not yet past the sweat shop era? GY

  3. This is HuffPo’s loss. You are correct to leave. HuffPo is not supporting journalists but exploiting them. Look forward to reading you in the future.

  4. Payment in exposure isn’t payment at all. You’ve proved you’ve got what it takes, now go market yourself to somebody who’ll pay for it. Or do what you were doing for HuffPo on your own website, sell advertising, take donations, get a grant, and be your own boss.

    Also, freelancing doesn’t have to be a lonely road. There are plenty of places around the country, including here in Portland, where freelancers have actively started working together on a regular basis to make it less solitary. The Oregon News Incubator is a great example. A loosely affiliated freelance group, ONI holds three times a week freelance work-togethers that alternative between locations. I’ve freelanced for 15+ years and find all the camaraderie I need in virtual relationships I have with editors and writers I work with all the time.

    Best of luck in all your future endeavors.

    Michelle Rafter

  5. I have never understood why HuffPo can’t pay at least a pittance to their writers and bloggers when every page is loaded to the friggin hilt with ads..paying ads I might add.

    Surely they don’t expect their ads to run for gratis…correct?

  6. Many of us have lived a similar version of your story! I’ve been a full-time writer for 15 years now, and have found my personal best balance is to have a day marketing communications job for a comfortable income, then write during free time for local mags for limited pay, viewing those journalistic experiences as a chance for growth and enjoyment (seems like local editors have the time and inclination to build friendships and true writer-editor relationships). When I tried earlier in my career to concentrate on journalism, I became bitter about low pay-per-word – and this was before the crash of traditional media. There are so many writers willing to work for nothing or very little, it is challenging to earn a good living in journalism. Do we swim upstream against the current, or turn around and look for our own little pocket of flow? A tough question. You are an excellent writer – good luck with your blog and books!

  7. Sorry to hear of your troubles. This is something photojournalists have been dealing with for years. Our craft has become so devalued that I know many award-winning photographers who are now out of the business completely. If I knew what the answer was, I’d share it with you, but there is always someone who is willing to do your job for free, and because of that, I have finally come to believe the light at the end of the tunnel is a train, not a way out.

    Mayhill in reply: Yes, I have met many photojournalists who now cannot make a living, even though they have portfolios of excellent work, prizes and years in the business. It is an under-reported story.

  8. “I pitched Arianna on covering whatever it is that Secretary of State Hillary Clinton is up to. Partly because of media budget cutbacks, but also because the reporters assigned to the State Department are a less-than-entrepreneurial lot, this story is not being told. ”

    Are you kidding? CLinton’s administration is probably the most accessible and transparent one in the cabinet, if not Washington. The State Dept website regularly has her answering questions, posts nearly every meeting she makes, and has regular updates from throughout the department. And it is all pretty comprehensively covered in the media as well.

    I agree journos should be paid–but you also need a story. I don’t think you really pitched any.

    Mayhill in reply: I believe you make my case for better coverage of Secretary Clinton. The daily press conferences at State are Orwellian. She, like most politicians, “answers questions” only in the sense that she replies with words–but those words are what she wants to get out there, her own talking points. She does not give reporters what they really want to know. And the State Department, by the way, is a world unto itself, much bigger than Hillary Clinton. It is hidebound, antedeluvian, set in century-old ways. It is an enormous bureaucracy resistant to change. The job of covering the State Department is much harder than reading press releases or event transcriptions on a web site.

  9. >>>the journalism pieces I have done in the past year seem to me as good as anything HuffPost’s paid reporters Sam Stein and Ryan Grim produce. Why do they get money, and I do not?

    Because you were willing to work for free and they weren’t, so you undermined your bargaining power. Did you ever stop to think that your free work undermined the wages of professional journalists, or did that just occur to you?

  10. Good for you. You made the right move. You’ve gotten some good scoops. You’ve hit some big stories. You’ve earned the right to call yourself a journalist. You’re a good reporter, and you should be paid for it. HuffPost shouldn’t get it for free. Their business model amounts to little more than a racket.

  11. First off, you made a great – if not a belated – decision. And best of luck to you.

    That said, I believe you were remiss in toughing it out for so long or for going this route at all. FACT: People place more value on what they pay for. Sad but true. And journalism and Arianna are no exceptions. You are too experienced to have gone this route from Day 1. On some level your self-esteem and self-worth went astray or MIA. Once you condition someone – or an entity – to get something free there’s no going back. Unfortunately, you are now paying the consequences for this decision. You speak of Arianna in almost reverent tones. I think this is and was a mistake. She was an employer or potential employer – and a rather poor one at that. One who had no qualms about taking advantage of you and others. How can you look up or respect a person with this lack of a moral compass?

    Mayhill in reply: Life is more complicated than that. As I said, Arianna has many good qualities. I like her very much. And I respect her business model. I just don’t fit into it, and I discovered that after banging my head against a wall (going out and getting stories in 2009-2010 for which I was never going to be paid).

  12. You didn’t “report” Obama’s comment, you repeated it. And made yourself a name. The fact you weren’t able to profit from it more is not anyone’s fault but your’s.

    Mayhill in reply: If I had wanted to “profit” from Bittergate, I could have done so. I could have hired an agent, a PR person; I could have gone on cable TV and talk radio. I did none of those things. I am not Joe the Plumber. The Monday after the Friday the story hit, I was back on the road reporting on the Pennsylvania primary. I wrote several hundred pieces for OfftheBus at Huff Post about the election. My coverage of the Iowa caucuses is a small part of an upcoming book on the subject of those caucuses. “Bitter” was not my only piece. Writing for OfftheBus was always about getting a great story; I never expected to get money for it. Since that time, however, I have pitched Arianna on stories and she has turned me down. That’s why I left.

  13. Mayhill – Good luck, but you write far too long. Get to the point.

    I couldn’t finish your piece.

    Mayhill in reply: Yes, I’m too long-winded for many. Luckily for you, there are plenty of other voices out there.

  14. I’m a professional writer. I concentrate on tech, and write primarily for site like devx.com — for money.

    You have never seen my byline on HuffPo, nor will you unless I’m doing a paid assignment for them.

    As far as the State Dept. or any other DC-based story: I don’t need to move there. I have a telephone and unlimited long distance. If I felt video was essential to a story, I might hit DC for a couple of days. Otherwise, why be that far from my local FL beaches?

    And cost: I’d charge $200 – $500 for a “phone interview” story, no more than $2500 for one with two days in DC and a video component.

    Mayhill in reply: Interesting that tech writers get paid so much. Anyway. Politics is different. For on-the-ground reporting, you kinda need to be there.

  15. I’m with Rob Levine on this one. As long as you’re willing to provide free content to page-view farms like HuffPo, you’re undercutting not just your own business but an entire industry of working writers.

    Unless it’s for a charity, working for free is a waste.

  16. Mayhill…get real, you were never with the Huffington Post! Howard Fineman is WITH The Huffington Post. Get it through your head, you are not and never were. You gave away free samples and they took them. Simple as that. For whatever reasons you created this illusion or fantasy which still appears to be intact given the title of this piece.

    Maybe instead of writing “Why I Left The Huffington Post” you should write one about why you decided to give away your services and stab other professional journalists who apparently have more self-worth than you and who are trying to make a living – in the back.

    Mayhill Fowler: I suspect it remains to be seen whom media history will connect “with The Huffington Post.”

  17. I’ve never understood the rationale behind writing for free for a zillionaire who is making money off your work — particularly ironic, now that Arianna’s flogging a book titled ‘Third World America.’

    One disagreement, though: it’s not about the “dignity.” It’s about the money. You wouldn’t spend 40-50 hours a week caulking strangers’ bathtubs for the “dignity” of doing so; you’d do it to pay your mortgage or your car loan or whatever.

  18. Uh… delusions of grandeur, my dear. Seriously.

  19. Maybe instead of that DC trip you’re gunning for, you should settle for a trip back to reality: “I am one of only a handful of national pundits who totally get Barack Obama.”

    Ok. this according to?

  20. S. Carson says:
    >>>Unfortunately, you are now paying the consequences for this decision.

    With all due respect, you’re wrong. Everyone in the U.S. who earns a living from creative work is paying the consequences for this decision and the many like it. But it’s OK – I’m sure Huffington needs the money more than reporters do.

  21. Sure looks like you are making the appropriate move!
    Best of luck!

  22. “No man but a blockhead ever wrote, except for money.”

    — James Boswell, quoting his subject in The Life of Samuel Johnson

  23. A question: How can you quit if you’ve never been paid?

    Mayhill in reply: That’s a very interesting question. However, I suspect there are people who would agree with me that “quit” is the appropriate verb.

  24. Explain to me how this post is going to get you a paying “journalist” job. My advice is that you take this down and put your energy into updating your resume. You sound still sound clueless plus now you can add unprofessional.

  25. Honestly, I don’t really agree with your perspective.
    When I was doing freelance radio reporting for public radio, I had to effectively pitch a real story and, if accepted, was then told what I’d be paid and then went through a rigorous editorial process before it went to air.
    I never gave my stuff away for free and, honestly, they weren’t interested in journalists who wanted to give it away, either.
    An arrangement is made. If you want to be paid, you make that clear before you do work for anyone. If you’re willing to do stuff for free to build your resume/portfolio of work, then fine. That’s what HuffPo is offering you, in a way.
    If you want to be paid, apply for “the job” in a real way. That is, if they’re offering one, which it seems they are not.
    Sometimes organizations have an idea for a position and look for the person themselves. Other times, they actually post a position for folks like yourself to apply. In your case, neither occurred and yet you’re blaming them. Really?
    I do extra work for my current organization. Why? Because there’s a need and I feel like the right person to fill that production need. Do I get paid for it? Nope. I offered to do it because it interests me and might be a nice addition to my demo/portfolio. If the “need” becomes permanent or more expansive and they ask me to continue filling that “need,” will I ask to be compensated. Probably. If they say they can’t, it’s my decision to continue filling that need or not. If I truly believe I should be paid and don’t wish to continue unless I’m paid, that’s my prerogative. But I’m not going to quit and then blame my organization for my quitting. That’s just silly. I might suggest that they’re not going to get the same level of production/quality unless they make the position a paid position, and that’s their prerogative to try to get it done on the cheap or not. Still, that’s their choice.
    Perhaps HuffPo will suffer without your work, but that’s their decision and it was yours to leave. Sounds quite reasonable on both sides. Your calling them out on some sort of injustice isn’t reasonable, though, in my humble opinion.

    Mayhill in reply: I’m not calling them out on an injustice. As I said, I really don’t have any hard feelings. I pitched Arianna on a few stories and she said no. So I’m moving on, at last. I understand that I don’t really fit with what she’s trying to do. That being said, I do think that the fact that Arianna would not or could not pay me even a small amount for original reporting is quite telling. And I wrote this piece in part because an enthusiasm for citizen journalism is sweeping the media landscape, and my experience is a useful corrective there.

  26. Quality does not corespond to Compensation.

    Almost all elevated status is a process of social promotion.

    Once you give something away, it has no commodity value.

  27. “I wanted $2500 a month, with the understanding that after six months we would review whether or not we would go forward, and with the commitment on my part to train a younger person to take my place down the road.”

    You would train someone to be what? A journalist? A citizen journalist? Or a self-deluded, would-be writer whose work cries out for an editor? (Sorry but you have really asked for it!)

  28. I appreciate your work – but cannot imagine any business responding to your iphone email demand.
    It’s too late now but why would you not ask for a face to face talk and suggest a new program or a tweak to current program? Or do the leg work and draft a suggested plan and submit? As a journalist you have to know communication is key to change – ultimatums are rarely effective.

    Mayhill in reply: I cannot imagine that you are a marketer because you have not listened to what I said. Did I not outline several proposals I pitched? Can you not deduce for yourself the amount of leg work it took to come up with those proposals? So here is a piece of advice for you. Successful people in any field are good listeners.

  29. Yeah, this is really stupid. Who works without getting paid? Technically, I don’t think that’s “working” but volunteering. And who volunteers for a millionaire media so-and-so? How can you quit a job no one ever hired you for? Why are you wasting more of your time writing all this self-deluded arble-garble and not getting paid for it? Clean your tub, read a book… do something useful! I’ve heard of writers being tortured souls but you’re really taking this to a whole new level.

    Mayhill in reply: I can see where you are coming from here, and in one sense of course you are right. However, there is a kind of dignity to getting paid for work, even if it is caulking bathtubs.

  30. Hi Mayhill,

    You’re learning a hard lesson that many of us who were on the journey before you have learned: that it is very difficult to transition from “blogger” to journalist (although fairly easy to go from journalist to blogger–go figure.) More often than not you will be asked to contribute to blogs and start-up ventures for free, or for relatively little money. Your experience and your following and/or influence may not matter. Because that’s *not* what most publishers are looking for. Most publishers are looking not even for good writing or experience, but a degree in journalism–which, to many, seems to be the only card needed to be considered a professional….

    It will, however, help you, if you stay in digital/Internet realms, to pursue getting paid. And then leverage those paid credentials into professional memberships. As someone I admire recently told me “you’ve built a reputation. so don’t worry too much.” Now’s the time to leverage it. Use HufPo as a great reference and move forward.

  31. Mayhill,
    You’ve hit on a critical question about citizen journalism, never mind about the tipping point between “citizen journalism” and “professional journalism”. One of the most important outcomes of journalism has always been the regular and reliable publishing of data that may be — for most of the individual pieces of data — dull as dishwater and of *any interest at all* to relatively few people. Think shipping arrivals and departures, birth and death notices, police blotters, court dockets, and city council or school board agendas, not to mention school honor rolls and lunch menus. As we become more and more reliant on “citizen journalists” to publish the minutiae of “hyperlocal” news, can we rely solely on their “public-spiritedness” or their personal interest in *some* of those minutiae to ensure reliable and consistent publishing of these data? As governments at all levels become more and more cagey about continuing, transparent public disclosure of the data recorded by and about those governments, can we rely on shifting the burden of publishing them from journalists (of any rank or dignity) to civil servants and their political masters? If “citizen journalists” cannot expect any compensation for their effort (let alone their skill), should we continue to rely on “the kindness of strangers”? And with how many grains of salt should we take their output?

    Mayhill in reply: This is a really big issue to which I’ve given a lot of thought. It is one that I worry about. And, no, “public spiritedness” alone is not enough, because–at least, this is what I observe to be true–in the end most enthusiasts have their own agendas. This is why the news gathering community is important–it’s a kind of checks and balances and natural fact checking process, among its more immediate daily chores.

  32. Zero sympathy. You helped create the problem that you later felt a victim of. As others also have said in these comments, you and all the people who work for free devalue writing and reporting and make it more difficult for anyone to be able to get paid for his or her work. It only just occurred to you that people who can get stuff for free are going to continue doing so?

    This is the problem with the devaluing and disappearance of newspapers, news magazines and the like. They have been the solid organizations delivering mostly trustworthy information and well-researched insight for decades. They pay professionals to do a professional job. Everybody loves to get something for free, but guess what? You won’t get something very good for free for very long. The citizen journalists will learn they’ve been had, and will leave. The problem is, what will be left?

    A lot of the blogging stuff on HuffPo is pure garbage, people just spouting off, knowing nothing more than the average guy on the street. I can ask the guy on the street for that. This is what you get for free.

  33. […] Mayhill Fowler quits Huffington Post: […]

  34. Mayhill,

    The Printed Blog is a subscription-based, weekly print magazine comprised entirely of blogs and other online content. We’re new, but we’re paying every contributor – blogger and photographer – from a percentage of our subscription revenue. The more paying subscribers we get, the more bloggers get paid.

    If you have any interest in working with us, drop me a line.


    Joshua Karp
    Founder and Publisher
    The Printed Blog

  35. 1. have no particular comment on your personal situation; i do not frequent huffpo for my quota of upskirt shots and celebutard infotainment any longer, since they CENSORED eric margolis’ nine one one article…
    2. just want to take this opportunity to ride my pet hobbyhorse: CENSORSHIP…
    while i realize it is silly to think of huffpo as a ‘liberal’ site, it (and she) pretends to be such…
    in regards to their (and MOST sites) extremely restrictive posting policies, i would like to know when CENSORSHIP became a progressive ‘value’…
    to me, true free speech is the bedrock right upon which all other rights depend; and it is extremely disappointing when ‘my side’ CENSORS…
    usually, it is for no other ‘reason’ than true free speech is messy; and the little fascist in everyone wants the trains to run on time with no graffiti…
    sad but true…
    art guerrilla
    aka ann archy

  36. […] she wants to do the reporting thing for a paying job then she should quit, but she shouldn’t blog about all the injustice she felt while blogging for HuffPo. Fowler knew she wasn’t going to get paid when […]

  37. Of course I knew I wouldn’t get paid for my work at OfftheBus. If you read my blog post attentively, you would see that I am talking about the work I have done since then. Don’t make this about something it is not.

  38. […] Name Blogger Leaves In A Huffington Over Policy Of Nonpayment […]

  39. This is one of the reasons I finally called it quits. You nailed it. Somebody has to take a stand about free content. Writing for OfftheBus, however, was different. Why would anyone have paid me for that? I never expected it. I knew nothing about journalism. It is the writing since then that I tried to make a go of doing it for free that in the end did not work out. This is not to say that it does not work for some people. Writing an opinion piece on Huff Post and cross-posting to your own blog can really enhance your brand. I can see that. I can see that that is a kind of payment that works for some people. But the work I am doing does not really fit that model.

  40. I can see where you’re coming from here, and in one sense of course you are right. However, there is a kind of dignity to getting paid for work, even if it is caulking bathtubs.

  41. I agree. That’s why I finally quit.

  42. Hi, Mayhill! Long time since that Ferris Wheel in Denver!

    My $.02: HP’s ground rules always were clear. They don’t pay bloggers. And if a blogger were to become a journalist, they’d be competing with all the other unemployed journalists out there for any open spots. So even though I’ve had my own angst and anger at them at times, I think it’s wrong to blame them — not unlike how some people blame a lover for not wanting a commitment, when said lover always was up front about not wanting a commitment.

    A better strategy, IMHO, would be to take the exposure that HP/OTB gave you, and shop it to another outlet. Build your brand one place, market it another; that’s a staple career development strategy in any line of work, and a prophet is without honor in his own home town (or on her own home outlet). So instead of “leaving” HP, is there a way you could “join” another venue?

    As I said, just two cents from another vet of the OTB (and HP editorial!) wars.

    Hope you and your family are well.


  43. Maybe this is a trend. My HuffPo writer/friend’s Facebook update the other day read:

    [Redacted] is riveted by all these radio interviews with Arianna Huffington – who expects freelancers to willingly write for HuffPo for free – talking about economic justice and the plight of the middle class.

  44. Hi, MS Bellows. And of course I never expected to get paid as a blogger. I believe I make that clear in my piece. As I summarized, I pitched Arianna on three stories. Initially, she was interested in two of the three. But at the end of the day she said she didn’t have the money to pay me for them. Finally, belatedly, I realized that paying for what really is freelance journalism is not going to be part of her business model anytime soon. My husband advised me not to give up, so I kept writing for Huff Post. But I realized that I was putting too much time and effort (and money) into a kind of a job tryout that really was nothing more than trying to make Huff Post into a venue that it is not.

  45. “Writing an opinion piece on Huff Post and cross-posting to your own blog can really enhance your brand. I can see that.”

    Sorry – that’s more Arianna-tripe. I don’t know a single person who toiled in the Huffington volunteer work farm and was able to parlay that into a real full-time job in media.

  46. Kevin,
    That’s not what I mean by “enhancing your brand.” It’s about keeping yourself out there. Why do you think Robert Reich and Bill Bradley post regularly at Huff Post as well as on their own blogs? One man is famous, one not–but both are doing the same thing: keeping their names and points of view in the public mind.

  47. I think we’re on the same page, Mayhill. I guess my point simply is that, instead of leaving HP, you might want to focus on starting somewhere else. No reason to close a door; every reason to try and open a new one. Or, returning to my relationship analogy: no reason you and HP can’t still be friends, even — if a particular issue seemed right for HP and you felt x-posting would benefit you — “friends with benefits.” But the pay (for blogging or journalism) is going to come from elsewhere, as you’ve realized.

    Again: be well!

    Mayhill in reply: Very good advice. This has been my husband’s advice. And why I have stuck it out at Huff Post so long. I still have things to say and stories to get and undoubtedly will find a place to write them up. But here’s two more deciders I didn’t go into in the blog post. First, somebody with a name has to take a stand about unpaid work. It might as well be me. I’m 64, my name has already been dragged through the mud–what do I have to lose? Also, I’m almost but not quite over the PTSD I had as a result of everything that happened to me. Cutting the apron strings to Huff Post is something I need to do that others hopefully would not, as you say, have to. Marc Cooper told me it would take three years for me to recover, and I feel that I am almost there. Saying quits to Huff Post is, hopefully, one of the last steps.

  48. Ms. Fowler,

    I daresay that both Bradley and Reich are both famous. Reich was himself a Secretary of Labor under Bill Clinton and has under his name these days many media appearances. And Bradley was a famous athlete who ran for President. This is not to take away from your general point because as both of them know, exposure is the name of the game.

    Mayhill in reply: The Bill Bradley who writes for Huff Post is a California political reporter not well-known outside the state.

  49. There are some interesting thoughts here. I think a lot of this is reflective of the new kind of “hustling” that aspiring writers can do — or have to do — in the Internet era.

    When I was a year or two out of college, doing a job that had nothing to do with my aspirations, I started a (very ugly and rudimentary) political news website, and pointed possible employers to it. That led to my first professional political writing gig, at National Journal’s website in 1998.

    A few years later, I started a slightly nicer-looking website that got a fair amount of attention in 2000. Out of this, I got some op-eds published with Scripps Howard and in a few mid-level newspapers. It also helped me get another job.

    Then, just this year, I started writing commentary for a website called The Moderate Voice. A local news website saw my stuff and hired me as a freelancer to do daily commentaries.

    These various early websites and blogs didn’t get me any money, and the freelancing I’m doing now is not enough to live on. (I still have another job.) But my goal in all of these enterprises was to get noticed and hopefully eventually get to a place where I would be a full-time professional political writer. That has not come yet, but these freebie projects have helped greatly.

    That said, this sort of “hustling” does hurt the market value for other aspiring writers. If some folks are giving it away free, why should businesspeople pay others?

    Mayhill in reply: That is the question, isn’t it? And there are no easy answers. At least, not now. I did what was right to me. Other people will make other decisions where staying on a blog writing for free is right for them. An interesting comparison is the theater world. My older daughter was an actress, a member of Actors’ Equity, for some years. Like you, and like most actors, she supported herself in other jobs. The line in the sand for her–what urged her finally into quitting–was when during an Off Broadway production she was in (good enough to be reviewed in the New York Times), the Equity rep came to check on the cast–all union members. They all lied to the rep, saying they were getting Equity pay and benefits. But, in the end, they were willing to work almost for free. As my daughter said, “Equity has got to be the only union where the members undermine that to which they are legally entitled all the time.” And in New York, this meant, in addition, paying state and city taxes on income they in fact never received. My husband, an attorney, was horrified. “Tax fraud,” he called it. Because the theater (well-known) had cooked the books to make it all look right. But actors are so desperate for work they do this to themselves all the time. I don’t know what the answer is. But clearly in some way “the arts” (and journalism has risen to, although it is fast falling from, that level) is a basket case here.

  50. Zoey, I don’t allow ad hominem attacks or false narratives not supported by the facts. If you can add to the serious discussion here, I am happy to have you. Otherwise no.
    Mayhill Fowler

  51. Mayhill, haha, my apologies! As you might’ve inferred, I don’t click over to HuffPo that often!

  52. I also appreciate your candor and willingness to put this all out in the open.

    I do not “follow” you, or the HP, and am not a journalist or a wannabe. I only read – and not thoroughly – your ‘hopey-changey’ piece, and you asked for feedback.

    It struck me more than anything as not journalism per se, so much as a blog and an op-ed piece. Mind you, that doesn’t mean those should be unpaid, but the writing style wasn’t the polished material that I am used to seeing as journalism. Not wrong, just that it needed some work – some streamlining, some focus, some editing, to bring it into a better “flow” (for lack of a more clear explanation).

    I’m limited in how well I can express my view of the writing, but it is “wordy”. Long sentences, often interrupted by phrases and comments (such as in parenthesis). Mind you, the reporting is in there, it’s just “so much” that one has to be a political junkie to want to follow it (and accept your several insertions of opinions).

    Just wanted to share my personal inputs.

    Reply from Mayhill: Tom, actually this is a great analysis. You express yourself well. This is a good description of my style. Some like it. Some don’t. Thanks for the input.

  53. I admire your bravery in being so naked. Some well-meaning, unsolicited advice: send 20 of your stories to a professional editor and take what he or she says to heart. My observation is that you are making entry-level mistakes in your writing, over and over. You have had a national platform but you work reads as if it has never been edited. Your writing is verbose and often repetitive. If you want to call yourself a writer or even a citizen journalist get some training. And stop using “whip smart” and parentheses. You will improve. And you may begin getting paid for your work. Good luck.

    Reply from Mayhill: You are right. My work has never been edited, except for the titles. You got me on the “whip smart.” Embarrassing. I proof for the threadbare. Missed that one. I have been experimenting with parentheses. Good to have the feedback, because now I’m rethinking there. Beyond that, here’s the thing about my style. It is intentional. I am trying to do journalism in a new voice. Sometimes it works, sometimes not. But I’m never going to be a “who what when where why” “just the facts ma’am” journalist. Some writers like my work; the irony, however, is that you learn more from those who don’t than those who do.

  54. I was really enjoying your article until I read this: “I am one of only a handful of national pundits who totally get Barack Obama.” You can’t use hyperbole to that degree and expect to be taken seriously by anyone.

    Mayhill in reply: “hyperbole . . . taken seriously by anyone.” !

  55. “But I’m never going to be a “who what when where why” “just the facts ma’am” journalist. ”

    i hate to break this to you, but that is what defines a “journalist” – along with sourcing, fact-checking, interviewing, researching and maintaining objectivity – what you are describing is what a columnist does, or an editorial writer, or any host of other subjective writing gigs -as well – “I am trying to do journalism in a new voice” sounds, if you’ll pardon me, extremely high school

    Mayhill in reply: Then there are a lot of us back in high school. By the by, good columnists do all those tasks, too. Most everything I have written has hatched from these five you mention, including that rara avis “maintaining objectivity.”

  56. Mayhill–I’d never heard of any of this (or you or your work) before today – but since people are chiming in, a few things jump out at me –

    You – “I told Arianna and she and I together would determine what few trips I would make. I wanted $2500 a month, with the understanding that after six months we would review whether or not we would go forward, and with the commitment on my part to train a younger person to take my place down the road. (I said this because I am sure that Obama will have second term.)

    Me – You were asking for a $15,000 payroll for one story based on the log line – “I pitched Arianna on covering whatever it is that Secretary of State Hillary Clinton is up to.” She actually discussed this with you with a straight face based on that pitch?

    You – “I’m not even including the opinion pieces, even though I am one of only a handful of national pundits who totally get Barack Obama. ”

    Me – Did someone in charge appoint you officially as an “Obama Getter” along with this handful of other select journalists? Do you have any sense at all at how many questions that line begs?
    I clicked on a piece of yours – up top i read this – “Am I the only writer with some connection to journalism who judges that the former CEO of eBay is likely to be the next governor of California? ” – “a writer with some connection to journalism”????

    Mayhill, journalism is a wonderful profession – exciting, intense, frustrating, unforgettable – but to truly experience it you have to be a “journalist” – as well, a crisp, efficient writing style devoid of awkward personal commentary goes a long way in helping to establish a writer as the real deal. Good luck to you.

    Mayhill in reply: Now Chris, think for a minute. Is it likely my pitch involved one line? My pieces are long enough without going into every detail. I always hope that my readers will have a modicum of deductive reasoning at their command. And my offer was not for one story. It was a pitch for covering the State Department, which would have involved my moving to DC, paying my own expenses to fly home once a month, Arianna and I sharing the cost of the foreign travel. $2500 a month works out to how much a year? Do the math. In the end, I think Arianna was simply not interested in covering State and Sec. Clinton et al. I said “six months” because I did not want either of us to feel bound to something that might not pan out. It would have been something new for Huff Post, after all. As for my comment on Meg Whitman, I stand by it. My comment about Obama was probably unwise in the moment; but I say let history judge in the long term.

  57. Maybe I am again a minority and simply like your style. You remind me of David Foster Wallace. Loved his pieces on tennis and tennis players, even as I had to refer to pictionary from time to time, as I do with your pieces (e.g. ad hominem, nice to have that pinned down).
    I have confidence that your process is good, and your decision will be edifying and even exciting. Aloha, Gertrude

  58. “I am trying to do journalism in a new voice” sounds, if you’ll pardon me, extremely high school”

    Mayhill in reply: Then there are a lot of us back in high school–

    No, good, trained, legitimate journalists don’t think in those terms – I’ve never heard ” “I am trying to do journalism in a new voice” uttered by anyone serious about writing – nothing even close to it – as I said, what you’re doing is not journalism – look at how many times you use “I” in a story and refer to what you think – journalists are taught to place themselves in the background and let the story be the star – what you’re doing is what many other hobby writers/bloggers do as well – placing yourself as the focal point of everything and letting the reader know WAY much about what *you* think – look, forget what I am saying – contact some editors and try to get hired – ultimately that’s the barometer – will the market support and sustain what you do.
    as for your line – ““I’m not even including the opinion pieces, even though I am one of only a handful of national pundits who totally get Barack Obama. ” My advice is, purge that – before any editors make it part of their “don’t let this happen to you” speech to other writers

    Mayhill in reply: I would say that we are a small, merry band, except that there are many of us. Don’t forget that you are visiting a personal blog–the roost of the “I.” This is not the business page of the New York Times, where, now that I think about it, you will find much “I” journalism today. Also, many big blog sites like Huff Post get their character from point of view.

  59. Mayhill,

    What you are begining to see is that the business model of the web, and in non virtual realms is based on immigrant farm labor concepts.

    Slavery. We can all rail against it but business has decided we are all free regradless of our talents.

    I make 120K but am still treated like a slave. And I have quit 8 times in the last year because this mindset has become endemic.

    Huffpost can talk morality as they mine the web for success, they will eventually end up
    a tired drudgereport ripoff with pretty pictures.

    Thats ok actually but what you need to know is that they get it all for free.

    If you dont want to be a slave find something to do where the corporatist immigrant business model modeled after farm labor isnt prevalent.

    As great as you are, you are nothing but a slave to huffpost.

  60. Sounds like somebody needs to start their own community blog. I love that idea- get the bloggers to BE a community. Genius.

    Mayhill, I briefly met you at PDF this year (when you sat next to me and told me the story about how you got into the media world). I recently read David Plouffe’s, Audacity to Win, and was blown away when he mentioned you! I realized that this was the woman who told me her incredible story about becoming the first citizen journalist to cover a pres camp. Plouffe obviously saw you as a serious journalist (and a threat to the campaign, which I’d take as a compliment).

    Don’t let the bastards get you. Take it to Tina Brown. Start your own group. I love the idea of you mentoring other younger journalists. You’re awesome and have paved the way for so many others.

    Keep it up. Without trying to sound cliche..take everything that HuffPo does wrong and make it right.

  61. This is like volunteering for the Red Cross, learning CPR in the process and consequently saving a life and then asking the Red Cross to pay you for your services.

    I don’t get it. You blogged for Huffpo knowing you were not going to get paid. Then, you “applied” for a journalism job by pitching your stories and they turned you down. What is the issue?? That you got turned down? If that’s the case, welcome to life!

    They didn’t break a promise. Plus, what they can afford or choose to spend on your pay is their business, not yours.

    If you want to get paid for great pieces, apply to those who do pay, don’t volunteer your services.

    Mayhill in reply: That’s exactly what I’ve done. Not sure why I stayed so long at Huff Post after 2008. One reason was loyalty. Another was that in the end I thought that Arianna would pay me for freelance work, since she was open to the suggestion. After all, The Huffington Post had nominated me for a Pulitzer. Why would I not think that in the end I would come up with a pitch for which she would pay? Finally, finally, I realized that I was banging my head against the wall of her business model. And I’m glad that my story is a corrective to the current enthusiasm for “citizen journalism.”

  62. Kudos to you for standing up for yourself and demanding payment. I have long thought HuffPo was exploiting would-be (and real!) writers by not paying them. Isn’t Arianna Huffington rich? Doesn’t The Huffington Post make money? I never understood why HuffPo didn’t pay, except that I can see they don’t pay *because they can get away without paying.* Sick.

    The problem lies in the fact that so many people are willing to write for free just to get their name out there. Heck, I might even do it. I used to say I wouldn’t, but now it seems there is no choice.

    But after you’ve “paid your dues,” you absolutely deserve payment. You are doing work, providing an actual service and making HuffPo stronger.

    I wish you good luck with your own blog and publications, and I know this piece will get some good attention.



  63. If you want to get hired as a journalist, then you have to stop arguing with the folks who tell you what you need to do to get hired. Virtually everyone in the business has told you that your writing style is not suited for serious journalism. Instead of heeding that advice, you’ve decided everyone else is wrong, and you’re right. You refuse to change your business model to fit the market.

    For goodness sakes, we’re trying to help you. So, try to listen.

    If you want to use HuffPost as a launching pad to a paid writing position, then show the people in a position to hire you that you have the chops to fill their open positions. Do not expect editors to bend over backwards to create a new position to fit your business model — make your business model fit theirs!

  64. Was on your side until you published the private emails. As a journalist, shouldn’t you be able to either paraphrase them or let the other side know they’re being used?

    Mayhill in reply: I regret this.

  65. Much ado about nothing. We all know the score viz-a-viz journalism. We all need to find different jobs that actually pay.

  66. It’s a side point, but it caught my attention when you wrote: “…here is my email exchange with Roy. He has always seemed to be a good man, and he is nice in his emails, so I do not think he will mind…”

    Wouldn’t it have been appropriate to ask his permission before publishing private correspondence between you? The person who receives or comes into possession of a physical letter (or a manuscript) does not inherently own the publishing rights to that material. I would think the same would hold true of email.

    Mayhill in reply: Somewhere in the comment thread I have already written about this. But anyway to repeat. Now I wish I had only quoted Roy about his concept of the “group blog.” But I wonder if on some level this was payback for The Huffington Post’s inclusion of me in The Huffington Post Book of Blogging. I never gave permission for a piece that I was told would be used in-house to help new bloggers to be included later in that book. I would never have given permission for book inclusion because I have mixed feelings about blogging. Imagine my surprise when it was.

  67. Couple of thoughts. You’re certainly at the vanguard of our exploration of new media models. Because of that, you’re in an awkward position because the model of success that you’ve aimed yourself at is experiencing intense market corrections. My career is in a similar place, though not in journalism.
    So part of the problem is that there are far more people who want to write than there are people who can pay them to write. This is in part because most of us are unwilling to pay for content that we could find elsewhere for free. With all the traditional media outlets downsizing, and free reporting everywhere else on the internet, it sounds like you (and a lot of other HuffPo bloggers) are a victim of a market correction. Arianna won’t pay for your work because there are literally thousands of people who will do those jobs for free.
    I think your decision to leave the post makes perfect sense. If you are looking for someone to pay you a monthly stipend plus travel to investigate stories across the globe, HP might not be your place. But with the major media outlets who actually do that sort of thing(BBC, NYT, etc.) all cutting back their staff and closing offices, those jobs to be hard to get. The Guardian quotes the LA times as saying that HP did grow their staff from 49 to 89 last year, with 11 in original reporting. Essentially it seems that your argument is that you should have been one of those new reporting jobs that HP created. If they don’t think so, you have no choice but to shop your writing elsewhere.
    You seem to want to be treated like a reporter from a traditional media outlet. You’ve left HuffPo because you feel you deserve more than they are willing to give you. You say that you’ve paid your dues as a citizen journalist, and now you are a real journalist. I’m not sure if you are the person who gets to decide when you’ve “paid your dues.” It might make sense for you to look at traditional media outlets in your hometown for work, places that may have an advertising base that allows them to pay for your reporting.
    All of that said, by posting you’ve added to the conversation. And perhaps you’ve helped warn other people in similar situations that the transition from ‘citizen journalist’ to paid journalist is not as easy as it has been made out to be. A lot of places have linked to this post. If you’ve got the resources, now might be a good time to take advantage of all of the traffic and see if you can’t develop your own following.

    Finally, here’s an article from a year ago that asks some editors of other online publications about paying bloggers to write. I think it’s worth reading because it highlights some of the differences in opinion among editors, and some of the decision making process (like that Arianna might not make all the spending choices with the amount of VC money HP has received). http://therumpus.net/2009/08/should-huffington-post-bloggers-get-paid/

    Mayhill in reply: Yes, I’m familiar with that piece from a year ago. And perhaps ironically, I now have a few offers that come with pay. I’ve tried to get my opinion of citizen journalism, based on my experience, out there in other ways, as a warning to other enthusiasts. Heck, I even wrote a book. But serendipitously, it took “Why I Left” to do it.

  68. Dear Mayhill,

    I am a professional journalist of 40 years or so but I am not going to enter the arena of free writers vs paid journalists in this note. At least one professional, if not others, responding to you have suggested an editor for your work. I heartily concur and I do that being very aware of and a participant in the newest forms of information dissemination. For your sake, Mayhill, try losing your ego for a moment, seek the counsel of an editor, best for you a paid editor, and maybe, just maybe you might someday realize your goal.

    Mayhill in reply: If you read “Why I Left” carefully, you will see that I was trying to tell Roy that I needed an editor as much as a little money. Lately, I had been wondering if my pieces were going up at Huff Post without even being eyeballed first. I would put a piece in the queue, refill my coffee and the piece was already live.

  69. Anyone notice a trend among the reporters whose work is worth paying for? They are named Sam, Ryan, and Howard — not Susan, Rihanna, or Helene. The more things change, the more they stay the same.

  70. get a life you talentless hack

  71. if anyone out there would be interested in speaking to me as part of a documentary film I am producing on the decline of the newspaper industry and rise of grassroots journalism, please reach out to me. I would love to hear from anyone about their thoughts on the HuffPost, major blog sites, content farms and the challenges of acquiring the proper press credentialing to cover stories.

    The film is called “FIT TO PRINT” and there is a teaser trailer up at:



    (laid-off copy-editor from The New York Times, who believes freelancers and HuffPost contributors should be PAID for their work)

  72. Aside from the issue of being paid for writing, I’m surprised (unless I missed it within the comments)that no one has raised anything about publicizing the email exchange. Yes, we all know anything we write can show up. Still, reporting what generally are considered private exchanges seems unethical. Maybe as a longtime journalist I’m too “old school”?

    Mayhill in reply: If I had it to do over again, I would have merely quoted Roy on the “group blog” idea. I did look to make sure that Roy’s Huff Post emails were not labeled privileged. Although I have never met the man, I have always suspected he is a good person. If he had written anything that could be embarrassing or mis-construed, I would have redacted. Furthermore, I never imagined “Why I Left” would get such immediate traction. My intention was to leave a footprint, as it were, so that several years down the road if anybody wondered “whatever happened to,” he or she could do a little digging and find this piece. I have a very small circle of readers on this blog (as opposed to on Huff Post) among whom I imagined a discussion in the here and now.

  73. Wow, this piece just reads like someone who was bitter for not getting her way. YOU made the decision to work for free at the Post. And it was probably a rational decision that worked for you–you got your name associated with a well-known publication, you got to sharpen your journalistic chops, whatever; no one forced you into it. It was your decision. The HP didn’t owe you a thing. Why dog them out for this complete and utter non-story?

    If you have such great ideas and rich journalistic experience–good for you, go out and find a paid job (i.e. a job that is paid from the very beginning and not just an unpaid job that you arbitrarily decide should be paid).

    FYI–Publications aren’t exactly teeming with revenue to throw at journalists right now, so you might be a little disappointed. I don’t imagine this post is going to help your cause, so you might want to keep it off your resume.

  74. I definitely feel your pain. It’s difficult to put so much hard work and effort into a project, only to have the person in charge completely dismiss your input. It’s something that I’ve had to wrestle with as a visual artist. Everyone wants your stuff, but nobody wants to pay for it…

  75. What is your previous experience? Just curious … As an old-school newspaper journalist, I take a little offense to you “paying your dues in the citizen journalism department” and anointing yourself a journalist. If you’ve never worked in the biz before, it’s a lot to ask to be paid to be a journalist, in my humble opinion. I’m open to the idea that I’m being a snob, but I would like to know.

    Mayhill in reply: No, I don’t think you are a snob. You have a good question. When I started writing for OfftheBus at The Huffington Post, I had no journalism experience and knew little about it, from the nuts and bolts to the media critics. I didn’t know a lede from Leda. I had never heard of the inverted pyramid. I didn’t know journalists usually don’t attend fundraisers. I wasn’t sure I could do the work. I never expected to be paid, nor should I have been paid. Covering the elections turned out to be an apprenticeship. Later I discovered that many journalists get their start by “doing it” rather than studying it. But even now I would hesitate to call myself a journalist had not several established journalists, at the New York Times, CNN, etc., called me one, accepted me as a peer and was taken aback when I said Arianna had never begun to pay me.

  76. What ridiculous drama. You wanted to get paid to follow up on some half-ass ideas on being a journalist. They didn’t want to pay you. So what?

  77. All you writing teachers are being too prissy.

    Fowler has a style that is not AP approved, but nevertheless is journalism, just as what Norman Mailer, and Jimmy Breslin and Pete Hamil wrote is journalism.

    Their writing brings out truths that most journalists miss, and this is what Fowler did.

    She is a good investigator and came up with some good stories in the last election.

    Good Luck

  78. Start writing for ground report. They pay their citizen journalists for performance and seem to be gaining a lot of traction.

    I think if HuffPo doesn’t come up with a system to compensate their best bloggers, citizen journalists, or whatever you want to call them, that they’ll continue to lose talent.

    Best of luck to you.


  79. man, do people ever love dumping all over you! citizen journalism, my ass. why would anyone want to be part of the “collaborative public” with the reactions like these as payback?

    on the other hand, you’ve put yourself out there. so, i’ll you give my (more polite, i hope) 2 cents:

    people get pigeon-holed in jobs. it happens all the time — definitely in journalism, often in journalism. you need to leave to move up the ladder. it’s really not that complicated, and i personally don’t think it reflects much on new/old media one way or the other. take the next step and move on. no biggie.

    oh — and writing pitches is a hard skill to learn. you probably have a little ways to go, as it’s something that gets honed working with great editors and sharpening your stories. maybe that’s an opportunity to pursue…a bit of mentoring?

    best of luck to you!!

  80. First mistake — you wrote for free, and that’s what HuffPo expected. The parameters never changed for them, only for you.

    As I read through the two grafs following the last email exchange, I kept thinking, “And the point is? So lo-o-o-ng!”
    I’m sorry, but I work independently as well, and have to earn my pay.

  81. “These various early websites and blogs didn’t get me any money, and the freelancing I’m doing now is not enough to live on. (I still have another job.) But my goal in all of these enterprises was to get noticed and hopefully eventually get to a place where I would be a full-time professional political writer. That has not come yet, but these freebie projects have helped greatly.

    That said, this sort of “hustling” does hurt the market value for other aspiring writers. If some folks are giving it away free, why should businesspeople pay others?”

    PJ Orvetti – According to your comment, you have been toiling for 22 years and still can not making a living wage as a journalist. You will never be a full time professional writer (for a paycheck anyway), because not only have your actions contributed to the work-for-free problem, but you’ve proven by your own admission that you will work for free indefinitely.

    There is value in providing very limited work for reduced or no pay, but to do it for 22 years and then wonder why you are not yet a “full-time professional political writer” completely boggles my mind. In the photography world, we call people like you GWC, which stands for “Guy With a Camera”. It describes all the fans who trade free images for access and by consequence, take food off the tables of working photographers. Being referred to as a GWC is probably one of the biggest insults a working photographer can throw at someone else. I don’t know if print journalists have a similar term for writers who give away the farm, but if they do, you would definitely fit the description.

    At what point will any of you aspiring writers, photographers, graphic artists, or (fill in the blank), realize that except for the very rare few who catch a lucky break, working for free is not and will never be a viable business model or the first step in making a living wage in any industry? It’s time to be big boys and girls, educate each other about not seeing the forest for the trees, and stop giving away the farm.

  82. The only way I’d ever post on HuffPo is if I had a charity cause to promote and didn’t care about remuneration. I read it and comment, but I’ve also had comments deleted when I have criticized Arianna for not paying her writers. It’s an established publication and it makes money off of advertising. It’s unconscionable for them not to pay something. IOne of the deleted ones called Arianna out for talking about third world America while she exploits writers. She’s got a built in conflict – she touts progressive views, but runs a plantation on the backs of others. There was a hearty little backlash bulletin board going one day on Mediabistro – a LOT of people in the editorial community really, really resent her for being such a plutocratic hypocrite.

  83. I’m sorry to be the bearer of bad news, but all the citizen journalists out there brought this on themselves.
    People like you have propogated the notion that the internet is free – and now you are paying the price.
    HuffPo is doing what all the other aggregator sites do – make money from other people’s efforts.
    Unfortunately, there are enough people like you out there who will continue to fill their site with content for free.

    I am sick and tired of people wanting everything for free – and people supporting this concept and then crying foul afterwards.

    This classic case is Chris Anderson who wrote a book titled “Free – the Future of Radical Price” … and what did he do? Did he give it away for free? No he didn’t. That’s all you need to know.

  84. Everyone has an opinion, including the guy down at the corner bar who’s been marinating his for thirty years.

    HuffPost pays a few “names” because they serve as Judas goats: they bring in the hopefuls and wannabes (“Wow, I’m on the same masthead as Joe Niemand, former columnist for Slot. I’ve arrived!”)

    Few people want to hear the opinions of the hopefuls or the bar-stool anchors, so why would anyone pay for them? Most hopefuls and anchors are only too eager to offer their views free gratis for nothing.

    We are a population that has ruthlessly been atomised and stripped of community. We ache from loneliness, and we want to be *listened* to, not talked to. (Look up the history of Weizenbaum’s “Eliza” for a poignant example of how desperate people are for community)

    The only time we want to listen to you is if you have something to say that’s *useful* to us. You’re one of the few who “get” Obama? So what?! You want to cover Clinton at the State Department? To what purpose? What do *we* get out of it? Titillation? It’s not enough. Your opinions? That’s *really* not enough.

    Think of offering something that readers can actually *use* to avoid pain or increase pleasure. This is something that’s taught in every Psychology of Adult Learners course: adults demand utility in return for their attention.

    My bona fides: I earned my living for awhile as a writer of practical, technical books, and even got a competitive award from the professional society for my work.

  85. Mayhill:

    You are very silly.

  86. Dear Mayhill:

    Things you have going against you:

    Your gender. Your age. (Sorry but it’s true. I’m 55 and female and also writing.) The fact that you did this for free for a long time.

    Things you have going for you:

    A unique name. A small following. Your individual style of writing. One big story you broke. Smarts, enthusiasm, hunger. Belief that what you are doing is important.

    Take this moment and milk it by getting your story — that is, the story of all the free citizen journalists who are powering the blogosphere — into all the online and print venues you can. Attach it to your name. Do that for a month.

    Stop talking about Bittergate as though it’s the story of the century, or naming yourself one of the few journalists who “gets” the POTUS. Watch the tendency for your moving personal writing to turn into whining or self-indulgence.

    Get a snappier blog design. Start going by one name. Update your photo, and your hair.

    I can see you in five years as MAYHILL — on a show alongside Arianna.

    P.S. Patch pays $50 a story, $75 a column, and you have to do real, hyperlocal reporting to get that. Not a way to get rich!

    Mayhill in reply: An acquaintance runs or ran a Patch site and after hearing his story I would run as fast as I can in the other direction from Patch. Anyway, thanks for the advice. Particularly on the blog design. I had wondered if I were the only one who doesn’t care for it. (And it was expensive, too. But then I hate WordPress.) The age issue is interesting. You know, in January 2009 Arianna could have been upfront with me, one old broad to another, and said, “Look, Mayhill, all my paid reporters in D.C. are young men–which is true–and all my editorial directors are young, and you just don’t fit the model.” I would have been accepting of that. Age discrimination is not an issue for me like it is for some. Probably, I shouldn’t have put in the part about “getting” Obama, even though, as another journalist wrote me in support, it’s true. I posted “Why I Left” on my personal blog, where I have seldom written and which few have ever read, for which I do not use SAI, etc., thinking that few people would read it. But I wanted a record of the fact that I made a conscious decision to quit writing at Huff Post. I’m very surprised at the attention. But clearly I have struck a nerve. I have two inboxes of emails from unpaid, underpaid, laid-off or generally flummoxed writers and reporters, some of them asking for help. As for the rest, it would be great if I never heard the B word again.

  87. SoCal Photog,

    Well, I have done that sort of work OFF AND ON in addition to other paid writing work for 12 years — I’m not sure where you got the 22 figure from, since I only started in 1998 — and I have been published and paid on occasion. That’s what freelancers do, isn’t it?

    Many people in creative industries do not expect to make their entire living from those enterprises. I don’t see why this should not apply to journalism as much as to playwriting or acting or any other labor of love.

    I’ve been in several major newspapers, on a national syndicated wire, and I currently write for a network affiliate website. I don’t really care if I have to do something else as well to help pay the bills.

    It seems like the alternative is to either just send out resumes while working temp jobs, or to give up on one’s ambitions entirely.

    If you are making a living just with your photography, I’m happy for you. Really, I am — I mean that sincerely. But do you really think those who haven’t made it yet should just give up?

  88. It is also worth adding that I have turned these efforts into several long-term or permanent professional writing jobs. I have made my living as a writer of one sort or another since 1997, though not always in the capacity I would have wished.

    Am I outside the norm on this? Yes, and I would not want to get anyone’s hopes up. I’m just stating what my own experience has been.

  89. Fact is HuffPo has become a very selfish enterprise – never mind incredibly trashy with it’s tabloid fixation. Arianna has become so peacock proud that she’s allowed what was once a great place to connect become a joke. It’s no longer respectable to say “find me on HuffPo.” So good on you for leaving. There’s greener pastures for sure. Ones without so much manure. Best of luck!

  90. Bravo for challenging the Huffington Post’s predatory business model. Arianna is a prime culprit in the deevolution of journalism as a livelihood. Why should anyone pay journalists when one of the most successful sites doesn’t? Arianna has milked the site’s success to further her own fame on the backs of journalists she exploits. No professionals should ever write for the Huffington Post. The ones who do are cutting their own throats.

  91. PJ – First off, I apologize for my miscalculation – it’s a good thing I’m not in a business that requires advanced math skills. :-)

    Secondly, no, I don’t think that those starting out should throw in the towel. Absolutely not. I only stepped on my soapbox because the way your comment was worded led me to believe that most of your work since 1998 has been for free, which sets a very bad example for the up and coming. I cringe every time I hear about another talented artist who is deluded into thinking that receiving credit as payment so they can “build their portfolio” is as good as receiving credit AND payment.

    We fight the same demon in photography, and it’s so easy for those who look up to us to misconstrue what we do and how we we got here.

    Perhaps we photographers and you writers should band together and report (or editorialize) on the state of our collective industries. The pen (and picture) is mightier than the sword and it’s only together that we can affect change. Perhaps by joining forces we can educate enough aspiring journalists and photographers about how to really make a go of it in this crazy business.

  92. Good Riddance!

  93. […] успехов. В ответ на пост в ее персональном блоге «Почему я уволилась из Huffington Post» спикер Huffington Post Марио Руиз (Mario Ruiz) заявил сайту The […]

    Mayhill Fowler in reply: Mario Ruiz misquotes me. You will note the title of my blog piece here. It is why I LEFT the Huffington Post. I did not say I resigned. I said I left. There is a difference. And it’s sad that it had to come to this for Mario and me. He is the Huffington Post press outreach guy. The last time we spoke he talked me into doing something I didn’t want to do but did it anyway as a favor to him. I hold no hard feelings about his comments yesterday. After all, he was only doing his job.

  94. Mayhill,

    I have blogged at HP for the last year. I have done citizen reporting from inside and out as well as writing opinion pieces.

    We are in the same boat, but you are much further along. I have felt, sometimes, the need to break away from HP.

    I get it is money being made off my back. Is it exploitation? But I am getting experience and a little exposure. Maybe I am looking at it like a good college athlete looks at the NCAA. Pay my dues while people around me are cashing in on my thoughts and talents? I’ll get an education in the process (yeah, you can read that like HL Mencken if you want).

    How many college athletes go pro? Did you get yourself an agent as you are turning pro? Are you seeking professional help (the PR kind, not the mental health kind) before making your declaration?

    FWIW, I have tried moving to other sites and find myself at the bottom rung of the ladder again competing with “I just washed my dog and he has ticks” stories or smug editors who degrade religion (the politics and religion relationship is one of the veins I like to mine). I am searching to make a buck out of this too. I may not be good enough, YET.

    If it is to be, it will happen. Professional help to me to start focusing on Facebook. If nothing else the HP tag gives you an entree.

    No, there isn’t a lot of support at HP. I congratulate you for getting emails from Arianna or Roy. I often think of myself there as a boil on the butts of the editorial staffs. I don’t even think the higher-ups know who I am after a year, about 70+ pieces, and well over 2000 fans.

    But I am not doing it for their strokes or money. I have to market myself. They aren’t opposed to you turning a buck – the are giving you a great leg up. You need to parlay that opportunity yourself.

    I have ideas I want to get into the public to start discussions. I know sometimes others take my ideas and run with them. That is OK in this realm – to a degree.

    I used to do stand-up comedy. I had decent material but lousy delivery (kinda like a fastball pitcher without a bendable elbow). I stopped doing stand-up when my material would get stolen. Was I going to start beating the crap out of the thieves?
    No – they aren’t worth doing time for. I went onto other things.

    The public discourse today is too important for ideas to be prevented from seeing the light of day because of ego. Yeah, I’d love to get credit for ideas and analysis I have done. But if somebody reads what I wrote and does better with one of my ideas, I am at their mercy for credit, but my idea has moved forward. I know I have changed the world in a positive manner.

    If I keep churning ideas out, eventually, I will get my due.

    And maybe paid.

    Against my own personal interests, I would ask you to reconsider what you have at HP before walking away. You make us all better by your presence.

    Joe the Nerd Ferraro

    Mayhill in reply: Joe, this is really great. Hope everybody here will read this, and you on site. If you are satisfied, then your relationship with Huff Post is working for you. You are enhancing your own brand by posting there. That model works for some people. It works for former Clinton Labor Secretary Bob Reich, for example. I thought I could make it work for me. My problem was that my gift is for knowing “where the stories are” and going out and getting a few. On-the-ground reporting, in other words. I’m not a very good pundit. And I made a name for myself doing just that. But I finally reached a dead end. Without editorial support, without at least some help with the expenses (I was willing to share), I could not go on. I think this goes to show that the Huffington Post is not interested primarily in news gathering. The reason why I presumed to think I might be an exception is that during the 2008 presidential election I got one of the biggest stories, and it could have derailed Barack Obama’s candidacy. Even though the Huffington Post is a liberal (and at that time very pro-Obama) organ, it published my story anyway. As many among the famous in media told me later, and in fact they did not have to tell me, because I knew it myself, by publishing it Arianna Huffington finally legitimized The Huffington Post. For the first time, in other words, other journalists began to respect her news site. That is why I presumed to think that eventually I could pitch her on a story based on original reporting that she was willing to pay me for. And she led me on to the extent of expressing enthusiastic interest and asking for a break-down of the story and its cost, on several occasions, only to send her assistant Roy Sekoff out in the end to tell me they didn’t have the money. (There is quite the story-within-the-story to one of these efforts, but now is not the time or the place.)

  95. Lastly, I’ll say that, while publishing personal e-mails may seem to you like “doing journalism in a new voice” you’ve more than likely secured that you will never be hired by any legitimate news gathering operation. I saw the HuffPost response to you and the message they sound to others is, “she is not to be trusted” – venting is fine, but I was quite surprised that you posted your private communication (rather than describe it or provide the essence of it) That truly is a violation of trust.

    Mayhill in reply: What makes you think the Huff Post reply is the truth? By the by, I already have a few “legitimate” offers.

  96. Why buy a cow when you can get milk for free?

    Too many media outlets solicit free content because they know that they will get it, that much of it will be acceptable and that what isn’t acceptable will simply disappear soon enough. Unfortunately you’ve learned the value of your work too late. It’s good that you learned it, but until the other gazillion “citizen journalists” (a term that makes no sense to me) start to get it, not much is gonna change in the business.

  97. Here’s what I tell people all the time: “I don’t do favors”. Your case is the prime example why I have this very policy.

    When you “work” for a charity without pay, you are making a donation or supporting a cause.

    When you “work” for a FOR PROFIT group (Ariana Inc) without pay or compensation of any kind, you are letting them take advantage of you.

    The unfortunate fact that so many people, a few talented but most horribly not so, are willing to give HuffPo FREE content is amazing to me.

    P.S. I get Obama too. Self-centered amateur. You might relate.

  98. someone put this lady in touch with Daniel Pink. also, this is a white people problem if i’ve ever heard one.

  99. […] carteggio con il management dell’Huffington. pubblicato dalla signora Fowler sul proprio blog vengono spiegate le ragioni. “Vorrei essere pagatra per il tempo e gli sforzi dedicati, o quanto […]

  100. Dusty said…

    “I have never understood why HuffPo can’t pay at least a pittance to their writers and bloggers when every page is loaded to the friggin hilt with ads..paying ads I might add.

    Surely they don’t expect their ads to run for gratis…correct?”

    Might I suggest that everyone use the AdBlock add-on for Firefox or Chrome? I use it and don’t see ads at all on HuffPo. ;)

    Mayhill, I’m sorry for your predicament, but you did the right thing. It’s unfair for someone to use your hard work year after year to put money in their own pocket and never give you any sort of compensation in recognition of that hard work.

    Best of luck to you…I’m sure you’ll do a fine job elsewhere! :)

    Mayhill in reply: Fred Dewey, the CEO of Kachingle, got in touch to say that his organization offered to Huff Post just last year an opportunity to collaborate, via their widget I guess, so that the site’s bloggers could get paid. Huff Post said no.

  101. Was it a wise move on their part to let you walk away? Well, yeah. Their business model is using content provided for free. If they pay you, then they have to pay the other 5999 writers and that would crater their business.

    If I had a dollar for every time a picture editor from a magazine tried to hire me to photograph something for free with the offer of a “great play and a byline” I’d be rich. Since day one, I’ve always told them the same thing: “Bylines don’t pay the bills. Call me if you can come up with a good day rate.” That’s why I’m still in business.

    The idea of someone using my time and talent for free to add to their profit is insulting. How you allowed Arianna to do that to you is beyond me.

    Here’s a business lesson: you’re worth pretty much what you negotiate at the very beginning of the relationship. If you work for free, you likely always will. If you agree to work for cheap, they’ll always see you as cheap labor. If you ask for big bucks (and do good work) only then will you stand a chance at getting paid well.

    Finally, I found this because it was linked to a good photography blog. The post was a warning that basically said: “Look at this dummy who agreed to work for free and who now whines about it. This could be you.” You are not doing your career any favors by airing this world wide though, granted, you could help an up-and-comer see what not to do.

  102. Well, I’ve never read any of the author’s reporting nor opinion pieces so I don’t have anything to say about what, if any thing, she needs to do regarding her writing style or what value to attach to her statement that she “gets” the president. And while I understand that the author never expected to be paid for her blogging contributions, her complaint makes me think of the phrase “content wants to be free” (I believe someone wrote a clever book arguing that writers, musicians, etc. should give away the content and make money off what I’ll term the “incidentals” … makes me think of Delta or Continental giving away the flight and trying to cover fuel prices via $15 bags of peanuts). I don’t mean that the author believes content wants to be free (after all, she wants to be compensated); but this notion of free — which has been touted as the new route to our economic freedom — is filled with assumptions about human behavior that run counter to our long experience; i.e., the more people get for “free” the more they want (if not expect) for free and the less they value something that they’ve received for free. It feels like this rush to be free is worked at from different angles. The first angle, which comes from the content producer, is this: since technology makes it easier (but does not guarantee) for my work to be accessed by large numbers of people, and since I’m always thinking about how to gain more control over the marketing of and compensation for my work, let me give away a song or two and see what comes of it. The second angle, which comes from management / The Man / The Woman, is this: I’ll invite members of the great unwashed to submit their work for free with the unspoken, unwritten, totally non-binding and unenforceable dream of being discovered or recognized for their talents. The content producer might think this arrangement is a meeting of the minds, but The Man/Woman understands it’s a marriage of convenience, at best. The content producer who thinks that this new world with its new technologies and constant change feels more (small “d”) democratic and even (small “c”) catholic, fails t see that this “new world” is, more often than not, sharecropping without the benefits.

    Now, even in this new world, there is a role for talent, however it is to be used; so, it’s hard for me to understand how the author can think it seems odd that that there’s money for Howard Fineman but not even a small fraction of it for her. I know that the author isn’t comparing herself to Mr. Fineman but apparently she hadn’t distinguished herself enough for the HuffPost. As to whether her story pitches were “worthy” of being supported by HuffPost I can only say that to HuffPost they weren’t – this no comment on the intrinsic merits of her ideas, necessarily; but it might be a comment on what HuffPost feels it needs to make another dollar and how those ideas don’t put more dollars in HuffPost’s pocket. Again, HuffPost probably feels it has millions of sharecroppers and wannabe sharecroppers … and maybe it’s going to take your ideas and give them to a “name” journalist / blogger to get even more mileage … But there is “not a quarter of [what Fineman is getting]” for you because HuffPost does not value the work that you’ve given them for free (and I assuming that HuffPost has reached conclusions about your work, i.e. HuffPost probably isn’t thinking that your prior work was just a warmup and work ten times better will be produced as soon as you get financially compensated). Again, I’ve not read the author’s work so I literally comment on what I think of it; but I’m just saying that HuffPost apparently doesn’t value it in the way that the author thinks it should be valued. Okay, this ended up being much, much longer than I intended.

    Mayhill in reply: You make some good points. I don’t fit their business model, and I spent too long trying to convince them otherwise, although in a way I’m glad I stuck it out so long and really, really tried to make it work. As for not having distinguished myself enough, the Huffington Post nominated my work for the Pulitzer Prize, in two different categories no less. I never thought this was a good idea, but they went ahead with it anyway.

  103. You want $2,500 a month because you’ve paid your dues in the citizen journalism department and that makes you a journalist now.

    My dear, I am a professional journalist and I don’t get $2,500 a month. Nobody in my market gets $2,500 a month as a beat reporter.

    We don’t do this for the money. Spending any time with a real journalist could have informed you of that. We envy the pay public school teachers get, but you are somehow entitled to $2,500 a month because…

    You had one big story. Good for you. However, a career isn’t made by the one big story, but the thousand little stories nobody notices which are still important. It’s dealing with daily deadlines. It’s about fighting the urge to scream while covering a child molestation trial, and still finding a way to write about it without betraying your inner disgust. It’s trying to fill a paper without resorting to wire on every page. It’s building relationships with sources, especially ones you don’t like. Finally, it’s performing a public service for a public that usually can’t stand you. That’s paying your dues.

    When you have paid *those* dues, maybe you can start demanding $2,500 a month.

    Mayhill in reply: Although you make many good points, I don’t think anyone can determine for anybody else when dues have been paid. That is a personal judgment. As for my own work, it’s “the thousand little stories,” as you call them, that garnered me a readership. You don’t have to lecture me about building relationships with sources, getting original material and so on. I’ve done all that. Try to have a little respect for others, even if they don’t do exactly what you do. Also, I was not “demanding” $2500 a month. Do not demean another person with such a verb choice. I did not go into the details of that particular pitch in “Why I Left.” The particulars of the money: I told Arianna that I could cover Hillary Clinton at State for $2500 a month, on a trial basis, for six months. This was in the context of a much larger budget, for which I would be paying the rest. Renting an apartment in DC, returning home to CA every so often, paying for the press cost (expensive) in traveling abroad with the Secretary, etc. I never expected Arianna to pay it all. I do not have the reputation or resume to ask for such. Also, I knew that covering State would be a new frontier for Huff Post. But I knew it was a terrific story not being told in a way that Huff Post and particularly my readers at Huff Post like, and I thought Huff Post might consider branching out. I thought it was an important story so worth getting that I was willing to contribute monetarily to getting it. And more than anything, as I told Arianna, I would need editorial support.

  104. So, if you never expected HP to pay, and you openly acknowledge the fact that you don’t have the experience to do it justice, then why persist? Why the drama?

    And sorry, but six months covering Hillary at State isn’t a story…it’s a beat. Working reporters wait years for a beat like that. They have to earn their way into it. However, you, with a small portfolio and little journalism experience can just pack up and roam with Hillary? Are you serious? If I walked into my editor’s office with a huge budget request, an open timeline, no credentials and no specific story idea aside from being in the same place and maybe tripping over some news, I’d (rightfully) be laughed out of the newsroom.

    Jeez, get over yourself.

    Mayhill in reply: Let’s step back a minute and contemplate the way in which people so readily today think the worst of another person and immediately try to diminish him or her. What is it about our society? What have we come to? I am guessing that you are not a terrible person, but certainly you come across that way. Think. Who in the world would do what you say I did: walk into an editor’s office and so on. Of course, I had a small story in mind. One that I knew, from experience, would take about six months to get. It involved State. It was not “roaming with Hillary.” I cannot take you seriously. It’s a wonder any news site does.

  105. Congratulations on the fact that you are now obviously editing your posts and removing comments that hit home.

    Maybe you are learning something from all this criticism: Edit yourself before you go public.

    Did you ever wonder why so many journos refuse to give another journo an interview?

    Now you know.

  106. Did your book sales increase when you blogged for them?

    I’ve noticed that many top bloggers on HuffPost use their posts as an SEO tool to drive traffic and link juice to their sites, which are monetized with ads, e-books and subscription areas.

    Many of them also have books they’re written do speaking engagements.

    Arianna is the queen of the freemium media style, which clearly conflicts with high quality, in-depth reporting that is necessary for important journalism.

  107. i noticed – all of my replies are now disappearing – incredible – so much for her “new” style of journalism – ugh – as a working journalist, this is all obscene.

  108. “as a working journalist, this is all obscene.”

    It’s a train wreck. We can’t resist it.

  109. I’ve been posting notes on facebook for the past 3 years. They’ve been mostly diary style posts, but lately, I’ve been writing news stories about my city. When I contacted Facebook to be paid, they refused. What gives? I’m a journalist now

  110. Sounds like you did a lot of good work for them and you’re a thoughtful and talented journalist. But you also sound like a terrible business person. You gave them a product for free, and got them used to getting it for free. Now you think they’re going to start paying you for it? Unless you’re selling crack, I don’t see how that business model is going to work.

    And really, this is a business. They make money. They just don’t want to share any of it with you. Maybe it’s short-sighted of them, but I’m not sure why you thought people are going to warm up to the idea of paying you for something you willingly gave away for so long.

    On the other hand, you made a name for yourself and have a nice resume you can use to try and apply your talents to a job. I think that’s better than trying to apply a job to your talents, which is a little silly because there was no job there and you weren’t in a position to create one. But I think that was valuable for you, so you got something, at least.

  111. […] “Senza paga e senza alcun supporto editoriale non vedo altra soluzione se non quella di lasciare… ritengo di essere una giornalista e come tale essere riconosciuta.. non è tanto una questione di denaro, quanto di dignità professionale”, spiega la giornalista sul suo blog. […]

  112. I wonder how people can read the HP?

    It is laid out poorly. The stories are hysterical, badly edited, written in 15 minutes. Trashy, tabloid, celebrity worshiping. It simply exists to exploit slave writers who feel exalted because they share space with “real names”.

    Congratulations to Ariana Huffington. She has parlayed her wealth into even greater wealth and fame which allows her to travel by limo and Lear Jet around the world and expound her views on what is wrong with America.

    She is no different from any of the other whores who populate our media and political landscape.

  113. “If I had wanted to “profit” from Bittergate, I could have done so. I could have hired an agent, a PR person; I could have gone on cable TV and talk radio. I did none of those things. I am not Joe the Plumber.”
    You did none of those things, you returned to blogging for tips.
    If PR or underpaid blogging is is your idea of how to profit from reporting on the campaign trail, then you really haven’t made the jump from blogging to journalism.

  114. A. Huffington steals from the poor to give to the rich (herself).

    I love it when I see her being invited to almost each and every Journalism conference there is. (Biggest laugh: she recently appeared on one on “ethics in Journalism”!)

    As long as the journalism world lets her kleep getting away with her theft, she deserves to prosper. Why pay for it when you can setal it?

  115. @Joe the Nerd Ferraro said: “FWIW, I have tried moving to other sites and find myself at the bottom rung of the ladder again competing with “I just washed my dog and he has ticks” stories or smug editors who degrade religion (the politics and religion relationship is one of the veins I like to mine).”

    Joe, you are finding yourself at the bottom rung again because no one will take you seriously as a professional journalist if you give your work away for free.

    It *might* be different for Mayhill because she has a name, but then again it might not be.

  116. Dear Mahill: I am sorry that you have to go through such a hard time. I found Arianna not only to be an opportunistic but, I also think that Arianna is a slave rider. According to NEWSWEEK August 2nd issue, that this year her revenue amounts to 30 million dollars. The book sales, the speeches, ads on the internet are going out of the roof. Thanks to the Obama administration that for the first time that a web site has been awarded to have a seat at the Whit House Press table. According to Vanity Fair of October 2010, that Arianna Huffigton is selected #42 of the Vanity Fair 100 people. The article states that she has 70 paid reporters and editors. According Neilson, HuffPo’s web site attracts 13 million unique visitors a month. I am very happy for her success but, what I do not like is hypocrisy in talking about the middle class while she is oppressing the middle class people who are working under her and while making millions of dollars of profits at the expense of their hard work. However, I heard Sam Stein that he is underpaid. I did not doubt it. Most of all, what is sad is as great writer as he is, he is being censored by the control freak Arianna. Bill Press the author of Toxic Talk stated that Glen Beck sets the agendas for the GOP. On the left, Arinana weakened the progressive support for the democrats by setting up the agendas that drive the lefties to ultra left to a point of no return. The difference between Gen Beck and Arianna is that Beck pushed his docile supporters all the way to right using religion and fear but, he made sure that the Tea partiers will go out vote for the Republicans. In Arianna’s case she pushed the progressive or democrats all the way to the left and she managed to disfranchise the left and demoralize the from voting. She and Dylan Rattigan Nader’s supporter, an MSNBC anchor now their whole show is that how people are so afraid and especially, on her column dated September 26, 2010 has stated wrote how she sympathizes with Tea Baggers fear. She referred to them as Dear Tae parteiers…. It is ironic that according NYT March 16, 2010 article that the majority of Tea baggers are middle to upper class people, older crowed with higher education. Of course, then we have the confused and the jobless crowed that they are taking advantage of their vulnerability. As Marx referred them the lumpuns or as we referred the astro turf group who are purchased by the interest groups on the Right like the Koch brothers, insurance industries, or the Dick Armies. If you guys recall that Arianna called for the resignation of Vice President Bidden on CNN, MSNBC and on her web site for the president and Bidden having a difference of views in the troop level in Afghanistan. She has raped the minds of the youth power who has been motivated by Obama’s election by turning them against their self interest. They are the one who got Pell grant, low interest school loans now, $10,000 for going to school. Now, 30% of the uninsured youth out of the total uninsured population or 14 million youth between 19 and 26 will be able to be covered under the parent’s healthcare. There is about 2 billion dollars that is put forward for research development in the health care bill. There fore, the youth should be getting out and vote for its interest than reading the demoralizing message of Arianna’s page. Her constant critique and attack at the Obama administration and the democrats has obviously, hurt not only the leadership but, the middle class movement.
    Even yesterday on Rachel Maddow that she said that the Democrats are incompetent and they have failed- unfortunately she was unchallenged. She seemed to lack commonsense. The fact is that in the absence of a lobbying reform, without the 60 votes majority and with a total lack of cooperation from the GOP that it is, difficult to pass any complex legislation. 97% of the time, the GOP filibustered the legislations proposed by the Democrats. The lie and the deception carried by 90% of the media controlled by conservatives is one of the major problems. Arianna constant attack of the democratic leadership enabled her to play a major part in disfranchising of the progressive supporters. If we lose for the Republicans, a multi millionaire like her still will remain to be multi millionaire while, the middle class will continue to suffer and disappear with high speed. The GOP will privatize SS, cut Medicare, cut education, pollute the environment, continue the war, contract American businesses and continue to send our jobs to the China and India, will place anti immigrant laws in place, will repeal of health care reform and financial reform, wage anti gay agenda, the expansion of Neo conservative agenda and the taking over of our democracy by the power of the corporation. Obama and most of the Democrats are the one who stand for the middle class. Let us not forget that the economy is a cycle. After al those business who are seating on 1.8 trillion cash balance will not disinvest forever. Yes, there is economic uncertainty but, those with the cash are trying to buy time by waiting for the Republicans friends take the house so, that they will repeal the financial regulation that is passed. Well their lobbyists spent 300 million already to kill the financial reform but, they failed. It is a meaningful bill but, thank God that we have Elizabeth Warren who will be such an asset to bring more change especially, in the consumer protection area. However, if we control both houses, there is nothing that they can do but, to take a risk. And I believe that some form of New Deal will be in place if we control the house that will give a boost the economy to create jobs in the short term and in the long term. However, we must work hard to win this election. We should be able to tune out Ariana’s bus tour to sell her books and continue to derail the progressive support for the Democratic Party.

    For anyone who is confused about her political stand while she was conservative but, now, in during the Bush that she was a proponent supporter of Ralph Nader, the utopian who received thousands of dollars from the RNC to run against Al Gore. The reason that Bush was in the office for eight years was due to erotic so called independents or liberals who voted for Ralph Nader, the spoiler. You might say that she voted for Obama so what? Even the dogs and the birds voted for Obama. Obama is not the almighty & he can’t turn things around and bring fundamental change in 22 months. . The democratic administration has achieved healthcare reform, financial reform, Education Reform – and many more to come with refinement in the policies that have passed already. She has no conscious now; she is talking about the Middle class who is suffering due to eight years of Bush administration of course thirty years of deregulation and Reaganomics. Therefore, people should be aware of her divisive intentions. She is not a democrat and she is discouraging people from voting for the democrats only to handle the power to the Republicans because there is no chance that a third party will win in this election. Mahill- do not worry you will find a great job. Good luck

  117. […] Mayhill Fowler, who gave The Huffington Post one of its biggest-ever scoops in 2008 as a reporter for the Off the Bus citizen-journalism project, wrote a kiss-off post on her […]

  118. You have run into the problem that plagues every creative person.

    If I give you money for your work, I’ll have less.

  119. Thanks for your response. See, with that info, I would pass on calling you a journalist, too. You have no experience! It’s also very reckless for anyone to refer to you as such. If you don’t know the nuts and bolts — and are left to figure them out for yourself with no help from an editor — then how can you want to be seen on the same level as people with experience? Yes, you’ve done good work, but in journalism, a track record is key, in my opinion. I still work at a newspaper, and I know a lot of people just starting out and who feel they should get raises and promotions because they did one really good story. It wouldn’t fly in any other field, and it shouldn’t fly here. But it does, which is why journalism is struggling right now. I don’t have an issue with you wanting to get paid, I guess. I just cannot abide with you calling yourself a journalist.

  120. Very nice site! is it yours too

  121. I am doing research for my college thesis, thanks for your brilliant points, now I am acting on a sudden impulse.

    – Laura

  122. Best wishes. I think you made the right decision. I only stumbled on this page because I was doing research into how much money Huffington earns annually for use in an article about what a rip-off unpaid internships are.

    For those saying that you can’t quit if you never officially worked for them, I say they are wrong. Huffington Post is using unpaid “interns” at this point to research and WRITE.

    Unpaid work that isn’t charitable should be outlawed in my view. But alas, Arianna has set up a “charity fund” now. More excuses for not paying people decent money.

  123. Hello!, I am visiting your site yet again to see more of your updates. I found this really interesting and felt compelled to comment a little thank you for all your effort. Please continue the great work your doing!

  124. The well written summary assited me very much! Bookmarked your website, very excellent categories everywhere that I see here! I really appreciate the info, thanks.

  125. This is very interesting. I actually enjoy your writing style and your word choice more than anything Smile

  126. Yours is a fascinating story, at least to me, and it confirms a lot of what I thought originally about the concept of “citizen journalism.”

    Mayhill, I gather that you started blogging along with a few thousand others on HuffPo as a labor of love. You were better than the vast majority, and you started breaking news that got picked up elsewhere.

    That’s when you should’ve started looking for a paying gig at a real journalism site, even if it was your local weekly paper. The truth of the matter is that you don’t have professional journalism experience, and yes, as you’ve found out, it DOES matter.

    From what I’ve read, you do have what it takes to be a professional journalist, but you started out working for free. Why are you surprised that HuffPo, who thought they were doing YOU a favor by giving you an outlet, still thinks your contributions are worth what they paid for them? That is, the big goose egg.

    There’s no doubt that HuffPo has made a huge amount of money from people like you; rather, I should say from only a few people like you on HuffPo who produce your caliber of writing.

    Did you really think they were going to pay you to go to DC and cover Hillary Clinton or the State Dept? Why would they? You were doing this for FREE. You have no professional journalism credentials. If they wanted to cover Hillary, and they had to pay someone to do it, they’d hire a professional. God knows, we’re all over the place, and many of my colleagues are out of work and looking for paying jobs.

    Did you expect some kind of loyalty from HuffPo? Well, they’re willing to let you write for FREE, just like you’ve always done. What do you think changed? Why should they pay you now, when you were willing all along to work for nothing? To them, you are what you’ve always been – an unpaid content producer. You may be much better than 99 percent of “citizen journalists”, but if you leave, hell, there will be some other CJ who will pop up, write as well as you, maybe not be as good a reporter as you, but whatever they produce, it will be FREE for Huffpo, and add to their bottom line.

    Of course it may not be as good as what you’d do, but if the difference is between FREE content, and me having to pay someone who is marginally (or even more than marginally) BETTER, why would I give you a dime? I can always find someone else who will fill your seat, and if I have to pay, I may as well pay someone with a resume in journalism.

    You didn’t get taken. Your part of the agreement with HuffPo was to provide free content on a national site. Their part was to give you an outlet.

    I’m not sure if you discovered this yet, but doing good journalism is WORK. Hard, demanding WORK. Blogging for fun isn’t work. It’s an avocation, it’s a hobby.

    HuffPo may backpat and flatter you, but that doesn’t pay the bills. If you thought that “citizen journalism” was somehow going to morph into PAYMENT, well, you got your answer. And the answer you got is the same one 99.9 percent of “citizen journalists” will get.

    HuffPo is a BUSINESS. Ariana Huffington might have more money than God, and she may “reinvent” herself – first, a conservative, then a divorce from an outted gay husband, and now she’s a born-again leftist – but didn’t you know what she was all along? Well, aside from a hypocrite, she’s a businesswoman. She’s a USER. She names a website after hersef, stirs up all the free content she can find from people willing to do it for free, and she gets the credit and makes the money.

    HuffPo advertises for paid editors on professional journalism sites. She doesn’t advertise on her site for paid journalists. She KNOWS where to find them when she needs them. And she only does that when she has to.

    It’s a BUSINESS. You may be very good, but you’re still an amateur, and that’s not my opinion. If HuffPo valued your contributions and considered you to be a professiona, they would have PAID you to keep you there.

    You are one more free content filler, and when you go, there are a hundred more waiting to fill your place, people who are willing to work for enthusiastic emails and back-patting phone calls.

    I don’t work for FREE. EVER. I demand to be paid for what I do. I’m a professional. Professionals get PAID. Ask Adriana. Does she run HuffPo for free? Does she make money from it? Does it fill her narcissistic need for fame to have HER NAME (or rather, her ex-husband’s last name) on a political site?

    Oh, I should say I do write on occasion for no pay, but it is when I choose to do it, for something I believe in, or something I enjoy. But I never expect to be paid for it. It’s a freebie I provide because it’s what I want to do.

    You just learned a hard, bitter lesson, one that most of your fellow “citizen journalists” haven’t. But they may still see this as a fun thing, a way to blow off political steam, a hobby. Even the ones who think they’re suddenly “professional” because they wrote something that got picked up by other sites are only fooling themselves.

    If no one is willing to PAY you for what you do, you aren’t a professional. Period.

    That’s why I laugh when some “citizen journalists” cry that they can’t get press credentials. No shit!

    Mayhill, you might be able to transition to being a paid professional yet. But you’re going to be competing with all the non “citizen journalists” out there, who are out of work.

    Good luck.

    Mayhill in reply: If you are the Katy Lake who writes reviews on Amazon, I’m not quite sure where you are coming from here. And I’m asking, why is that we live in such a culture of condescension now?

    In answer to a few of your points. First of all, I now have more professional experience than any number of journalists had when they started. Not all go to journalism school, I have learned. Secondly, I did not proffer Arianna a sweeping pitch on covering the State Department. I was circumspect. I said, here is this one little story, it will take me six months to get it, we can share the expenses. It can be a trial effort. And initially Arianna was enthusiastic, sending me out to come up with a detailed plan. In the end, she said she couldn’t afford it. Ditto my other pitches. If she had just said in the beginning that Huff Post would never hire me as a freelancer, I would have been fine with that and understood. But she led me on for almost two years.

    What my experience shows is not that Arianna is a narcissist or any other of the less-than-attractive things of which you are accusing her. She simply is not interested in journalism per se. She would rather start a new vertical on divorce than expand her coverage of politics. That’s fine. Huff Post is now the kind of raucous public square that many people like to frequent. But I saw something in Arianna that led me to believe she was willing and able to take Huff Post reporting to a higher level. I never agreed with those in the business (and believe me I have heard from many) who say that Huff Post reporting is poor.

    Finally, here is some advice from a woman who has been writing for many years. Avoid hyperbole. “Citizen journalists cry when they can’t get press credentials?” I have never heard one cry. Avoid sweeping statements on a subject of which you are ignorant. The Huffington Post does not send out “enthusiastic emails and back-patting phone calls.” And never presume to tell someone you have never met and never seen in the workplace how hard she or he WORKS.

  127. Well, Mayhill, you sure got an “enthusiastic email” when Ariana told you to come up with a plan she ultimately refused to help finance because she, a millionaire, couldn’t afford it. Or maybe you got an “enthusiastic phone call.” Sorry I didn’t cover all the contingencies.

    Okay, Ariana isn’t a narcissist. She’s just a millionaire who can’t afford to share a few thousand in expenses with the unpaid help.

    I am sorry you think I was being condescending. It wasn’t intended; maybe you’re confusing me with other people who have riled you. I’ve read some of your articles, and you’re a very good writer. Very good op/ed pieces.

    I was impressed enough to call a friend who does hire freelancers, and ask him to look at your work. I think you SHOULD be paid.

    I’m not a snob about how someone comes to journalism, but I am about professionalism. I think it’s perfectly possible for a well educated person to become a journalist without ever going to J-school. In fact, a more well rounded person with a diverse educational background is probably much better at reporting than someone who has never had their nose out of the J-school trough.

    The snark thing, though, bothers me. If someone sends you a private email and you post it, that’s unprofessional. If someone gives you an email address, and while you don’t post it, you make an effort to point out the private affiliation that’s apparent in the email, that’s unprofessional, as well as childish. Snark keeps you an amateur.

    I’m sure you’re quite beaten up by the professionals who have let you know in subtle and not so subtle ways that you aren’t quite up to snuff. I’m sorry for that. I do think you are.

    But you have to swallow an awful lot to be a journalist. If you can’t take it, you’re climbing the walls of the wrong profession. There’s no place for petulance in this field.

    Good luck to you.

    Mayhill in reply: As I said in the comment thread several times, I regret posting Roy’s emails. I did redact his and Arianna’s email addresses, so I don’t know what you are talking about re email addresses. I have never in my life given out an email address. (Had that happen to me, when one Zennie put mine out on the internet post-Bittergate, and subsequently I got death threats via email.) I used Roy’s and my email exchange as a way to show, succinctly, that my relationship with Huff Post was not the typical one. I know just how much attention 5,500 of the bloggers get. Zero. I did this because I knew that Huff Post would come back, as indeed they did via Mario Ruiz, and mis-represent our history. However, I should have given using Roy’s emails further thought, because my choice presented Mario reason (good reason) for snark. Also, as I said earlier in the comment thread, I think now that on some level posting Roy’s emails was payback for Huff Post’s putting what I thought was an in-house memorandum into “The Huffington Post Complete Guide to Blogging” without my permission, which I never would have given because I am not all that keen on blogging per se. That old creeped-out feeling comes over me again just thinking about the day I opened the book to discover that I am in it. Despite and because of everything good and bad that has happened between us, I like Roy Sekoff and would never have printed anything that would diminish him.

    Just figured something out. You are referring to your own email address. I had not noticed it. FYI I always google commenters to whom I am thinking of replying. Googling “Katy Lake” turns up many lakes–no surprise there–and a woman who writes reviews for Amazon.com. You are quite prominent on Google. Your work is not a secret.

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