Losing Our Platform, Losing our Footing: Thursday’s Shock for Huffington Post Contributors

lydia polgreenLydia Polgreen, Editor In Chief of The Huffington Post, Photo Source: thecut.com

On Thursday night, I went to post an article that I had spent an embarrassingly great amount of time writing. That had also entailed: rewriting and further refining the piece. I was so glad to have finished it and felt confident about the end result. I could not wait to share the link to the feature with my interview subject, a dynamic woman whose family had fled the Church of Bible Understanding (COBU) cult. Normally, I went to The Huffington Post Contributor platform and inserted the text, images and videos – not a short process for me, but one that contained a certain level of excitement because it meant the article I had crafted would soon be shareable. This time, when I attempted to post, I saw a message on the platform that it had been closed entirely for new submissions. Poof. Gone. Eradicated. Just like that with no warning.

When I checked with a friend who was also a HuffPo Contributor, he was cool, calm and classy about it. He too had been taken aback, but unlike me, he’d received an email that very morning explaining that Huffington Post Contributors -approximately 100K insightful individuals who have brought content to HuffPo without pay, generating advertising revenue for the site – were a thing of the past.

No one had been notified ahead of time with the exception of the email that morning. This had to have been a deliberate move to avoid outrage.

“It seems you can sort of blame Donald Trump for Huffington Post’s decision,” someone close to me remarked as she read a quote from Huffington Post’s editor-in-chief Lydia Polgreen.

Polgreen said that these platforms had devolved into “cacophonous, messy, hard-to-hear places where voices get drowned out and where the loudest shouting voice prevails.” In an era of ‘fake news!’ cries, it seems the Trumpian mentality and those who are truly in the wrong have drowned out great voices (I’m not referring to myself at all here, but to the other great many contributors), ones that I feel should be heard.

There have been books and even a movie that resulted from Huffington Post Contributor columns, which Polgreen and the Huffington Post acknowledged in statements released to the public, so the eradication of the Contributor platform comes as a shock to many.

The New York Times referred to HuffPo Contributor archives as “unfiltered platforms” which I found to be greatly upsetting and insulting. Having consulted other Contributors over the years, I saw firsthand how it was important for them that they research, vet, fact-check and completely perfect their articles before posting.

I am not a fast writer and characteristically, I toil away for hours late at night. While much hoopla has been made about HuffPo Contributors having been unpaid, because of the cache of the HuffPo name, we Contributors took the honor of having been accepted to this platform seriously. It was the same for those who granted us interviews, pitched us story ideas and gave us access to exclusive information.

I have worked as a consultant in another profession  for years and that work only involves technical (rather than creative) writing. Huffington Post afforded me the opportunity to share my creative pieces, ones I could not draft during work hours, for a certain readership that I do not interact with professionally. To see various news outlets cavalierly refer to “unpaid bloggers” on Thursday and Friday felt like a smack in the face to many of the 100,000 Contributors who had put in time, effort and resources creating posts that appealed to the masses.

In my case, Huffington Post allowed me to connect with a victim of terrorism assisting other victims, a famous talk show host committed to anti bullying, countless physicians and mental health professionals, scientists, a Dateline NBC orator, Natalee Holloway’s father Dave Holloway, and so many other incredible individuals.

I took my work seriously, and of course, I would get the question of “why in the hell do you write if it’s unpaid?” The candid answer that I did not voice aloud was that there was a certain cushioning to that. I could continue doing my “day job” and not really be considered a journalist. As a person who is afraid of not meeting expectations, this arrangement temporarily suited me. It provided me with a level of comfort and protection, even if that could be deemed cowardly. I have recently been trying to push myself to pursue paid writing opportunities, to be much more confident and find something rewarding that I’m tremendously passionate about. I have always been in awe of the many, far greater, stellar writers of this world. Until now, that is what held me back from demanding more for myself.

That said, The Huffington Post brand garners oohs and ahhs and opens up doors for those under its auspices – paid and unpaid writers alike. I will miss having that platform, and the incredible and previously unimaginable opportunities it afforded me.