Labor disputes have wreaked havoc with pro football and the state of Wisconsin already this year. The same can't be said of the Associated Press and The Huffington Post, where it has been business as usual despite ongoing boycotts from their contributors. Both disputes are about money--AP staffers (members of the News Media Guild Press) began withholding bylines--i.e. not adding their names to stories and photos--last week after contract negotiations between the union and company stalled. At the Huffington Post, content syndicator Visual Art Source went on strike earlier this month to protest the site's use of unpaid bloggers, with the 26,000-member Newspaper Guild joining the boycott last week.
So why aren't more media types preparing to walk, in the words of the Newspaper Guild, the "electronic picket line"? The reasons vary.
- The Atlantic's Jeffrey Goldberg blamed their incrementalist approach for the AP's woes. "Why not just hold your breath?" he tweeted. "Byline strikes only hurt reporters, not corporate overlords."
- At Gawker, Hamilton Nolan had trouble feeling much sympathy for the Huffington Post contributors who don't earn a living with their writing. "[I]t looks like the unpaid writers would actually have to take a stand to make [the pay model] change," he crowed.
- Mediaite founder Dan Abrams thought the Huffington Post boycott reeked of opportunism in the wake of the website's recent sale to AOL. "Why the public cry for a strike now?" he asked. "What happened last week? Did Huffington Post suddenly change its model as a result of its sale to Aol?...Unless there was a major development I missed, isn’t this exactly what they have been doing since they launched in 2005? So why now?"
- Forbes's Jeff Bercovici posed that very question to a Guild spokesperson and was told Huffington's reputation as an "articulate voice for the middle class being endangered, and for people getting what they deserve in the way of compensation" made her fair game, even though, as Bercovici points out, her website is "far from the only outlet that solicits unpaid submissions."