A pair of writers unions are abandoning their seven-month-long boycott against The Huffington Post protesting the website's use of unpaid bloggers citing an agreement, but the web news giant says it's not changing its rules for unpaid writers. The National Writers Union/UAW 181 said, "For now, the boycott has run its course," in a press release published by Jim Romenesko at the Poynter Institute. The Newspaper Guild, who had collaborated with the NWU on the boycott, is also backing out. In a statement obtained by Jeff Bercovici at Forbes, they explained that they'd worked out an arrangement with The Huffington Post. "After a number of very productive meetings," reads the statement, "the Huffington Post has agreed to draw a bright line in the sand between staffers and bloggers, with (unpaid) bloggers no longer being assigned stories or expected to cover news."
Bercovici mulls the possible of changes in HuffPost coverage. "If that statement's an accurate reflection of the concessions the Guild won," he says, "it sounds like Huffpo won't be doing any more large-scale citizen journalism projects along the lines of its Off The Bus and Eyes and Ears campaigns."
However that's not what The Huffington Post is saying. "Our blogger guidelines remain the same," Huffington Post spokesman Mario Ruiz told The Atlantic Wire. "We pledged to work with the Guild to continue to spotlight and protect the work of journalists. Our goals are the same: to support the necessary work of professional reporters."
Ruiz added that they'll continue with their citizen journalism projects for the 2012 election. "We remain excited about and committed to our Eyes and Ears citizen journalism initiative," he said in an email on Friday. "In fact, Ryan Grim in his remarks to the Guild at its yearly dinner last night explained the value of citizen journalism, and underscored that this complements the necessary work of paid reporters--it's not meant to replace it."
Citizen journalism has been a boon for the Huffington Post in the past. In 2009, as part of the Off The Bus program, citizen journalist Mayhill Fowler secured what was arguably HuffPost's biggest scoop, a recording of then-candidate Obama complaining about "bitter" Americans who "cling to guns or religion or antipathy to people who aren't like them." The story was a huge blow to the Obama campaign.
(Full Disclosure: I worked as an editor at the Huffington Post from 2009 and 2010, working on a number of their citizen journalism efforts.)