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Kim Voynar

By Kim Voynar

Arianna, Can You Spare a Dime?

It’s been a few days since I posted anything related to Arianna Huffington, so just in case you thought I was off that soapbox, sorry. Back in my project management days, my favorite slogan was, “Gentle pressure, relentlessly applied,” and that is exactly what I intend to do with regard to Ms. Huffington.

Well, unless she suddenly makes a television appearance on Rachel Maddow saying, “Holy shit, guys! I was held captive by corporate swine and forced to say all that stupid shit about not valuing the bloggers who helped build HuffPo! Of course I’m actually consistent with the values I espouse in my book and in my speeches!” Until then, I will continue to keep attention on HuffPo and the writers because the world has a short attention span, and writers are always getting crapped on.

I got an email last week from Molly Secours, a writer who (formerly) wrote for HuffPo, who is now, like me, banging the Arianna’s-a-big-fat-hypocrite drum. In her most recent piece on her departure from the ranks of HuffPo and support of the writer’s strike, Molly breaks down the math to make her point:

To help those who have trouble understanding why Huffington’s values are being questioned as to whether or not she is being a little ‘piggish’ herself, let’s apply her formula above. What if instead of keeping $315 million from the AOL sale that as a gesture of thanks (and to demonstrate the wealth sharing she promotes in every interview and article written) that she rewards the 9,000 bloggers with a one-time $1000 check. After compensating 9000 bloggers Ms. Huffington would still have $308 million dollars left to spare and more followers than a pied piper.

Back in February, Molly also wrote this insightful piece, in which she analyzes the “personal” letter Arianna sent to the 9,000 HuffPo bloggers following her $315 million payday. Here’s a snippet from that one:

Knowing Ms. Huffington’s uncompromising commitment to equity and fairness, this was encouraging. I was momentarily gratified by her acknowledgement and felt confident that Huffington was using this occasion to publicly ‘walk the talk’ and drive home a point that she (Huffington) had made countless times in numerous forums about sharing wealth. After all, what better opportunity could there be for Ms. Huffington to demonstrate the very thing she purports in nearly every interview, article and speech about corporate greed and income disparities? And with 315 million dollars and an expected readership of 250 million around the world, why wouldn’t they?

Okay, me again. Here’s where I’d like to point something out that you probably aren’t aware of, unless you were a lead blogger with Weblogs, Inc back in late 2005, when they sold to AOL for $25 million — a fraction of the payday Arianna just got.

Jason Calacanis and Brian Alvey knew their leads were all tense about the merger. Many of us suspected that ultimately AOL would merge or kill off most of the properties within five years (hey, it took them six to really get going with the obliterating, so I guess I didn’t give them enough credit).

Jason and Brian flew all their lead bloggers out to New York City for a big summit over a weekend, so we could meet some of our AOL counterparts and get brought abreast of what to expect from the merger. Everyone played nicey-nice and tiptoed around what were sure to be issues that weekend; we were there to meet our virtual office mates and hang in NYC and party. Engadget’s hipster royalty, Peter Rojas and Ryan Block, mostly kept to themselves as befitted the weekend’s biggest VIPs. I don’t think anyone really minded; we all knew that it was Engadget’s tentpole megatraffic that was currently keeping our brave little niche blogs afloat and regular pay in our pockets.

We wined and dined, had a memorable night involving many bottles of expensive sake at a sushi joint which ended with a male blogger threatening a striptease on a chair, followed by many of us carrying on into the wee hours in a private karaoke room. There may have been more alcohol consumed here, I really don’t recall. There was definitely some karaoke that I wish I had on video.

But the other reason the mood was celebratory was that Jason and Brian had acknowledged the hard work all of us had put and were continuing to put into growing blogs like TV Squad and Cinematical and Autoblog and they PAID US A ONE-TIME BONUS. Bonuses were weighted based on how long you’d been there and maybe also on your blog’s traffic, not sure. But their were pretty substantial in some cases, and appreciated by all of us. Further, that appreciation drifted down into the ranks of the Weblogs bloggers. There was a sense that everyone liked Jason and Brian, and while they were certainly glad to make a nice profit off their idea and hard work, they acknowledged that it took the labors of many to pull that vision off.

And never — NEVER in a million years, would either of them have ever thought of speaking of the people who helped them build Weblogs, Inc into a company worth selling in the dismissive, condescending manner Arianna has. Jason and Brian were great people to work for and I still consider them both friends.

Here’s the thing: Part of what is fueling this whole fire — besides Arianna’s godawful attitude, is that she has been so vocal in opposing exactly the kind of arrogance and greed she is now espousing. From Molly Secour’s blog post again:

In “Pigs at The Trough”, Huffington exposes the sins of corporate greed and brilliantly articulates how Americans have “scandal fatigue” and that often times the dollar figures associated with corporate excess are too enormous for people to wrap their minds around and that the public becomes numbed by the dollar figures. For example Ms. Huffington explains to readers how a 3.9 billion dollar bonus for an Enron Executive could have instead been used by Habitat for Humanity to build 83,691 homes at the cost of $46,000 each.

Given her very public and vocal stance against greed, it just does not make logical sense for Arianna to NOT pay her bloggers a one-time bonus. I can’t imagine what in hell she’s thinking in playing the rich bitch here. It would have been easy and painless, particularly from a PR standpoint, for her to have forever branded herself by her graciousness and generosity toward the writers who helped her build HuffPo. Instead, she’s buried herself under a big, smelly mound of bullshit.

P.S. Go check out the Facebook page “Hey Arianna, can you spare a dime?“, where former HuffPo bloggers can gather to plot, plan and commiserate.

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One Response to “Arianna, Can You Spare a Dime?”

  1. Deidre says:

    Thanks for mentioning this. I was one of the bloggers on that NYC trip and also very appreciative of that bonus. It said a lot about who we worked for. And a few weeks ago, I was one of the AOL editors who was laid off, booted off the blog I started as part of Weblogs Inc in 2004.

    Some successful people, when they get successful realize how they got there and who helped them. Others assume that they are successful because they are simply that good. But no one is that good alone. Arianna has made a public show of her philanthropy but it’s a showy sort of generosity and like a smile that doesn’t reach the eyes, it’s not fooling anyone.


Quote Unquotesee all »

It shows how out of it I was in trying to be in it, acknowledging that I was out of it to myself, and then thinking, “Okay, how do I stop being out of it? Well, I get some legitimate illogical narrative ideas” — some novel, you know?

So I decided on three writers that I might be able to option their material and get some producer, or myself as producer, and then get some writer to do a screenplay on it, and maybe make a movie.

And so the three projects were “Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep,” “Naked Lunch” and a collection of Bukowski. Which, in 1975, forget it — I mean, that was nuts. Hollywood would not touch any of that, but I was looking for something commercial, and I thought that all of these things were coming.

There would be no Blade Runner if there was no Ray Bradbury. I couldn’t find Philip K. Dick. His agent didn’t even know where he was. And so I gave up.

I was walking down the street and I ran into Bradbury — he directed a play that I was going to do as an actor, so we know each other, but he yelled “hi” — and I’d forgot who he was.

So at my girlfriend Barbara Hershey’s urging — I was with her at that moment — she said, “Talk to him! That guy really wants to talk to you,” and I said “No, fuck him,” and keep walking.

But then I did, and then I realized who it was, and I thought, “Wait, he’s in that realm, maybe he knows Philip K. Dick.” I said, “You know a guy named—” “Yeah, sure — you want his phone number?”

My friend paid my rent for a year while I wrote, because it turned out we couldn’t get a writer. My friends kept on me about, well, if you can’t get a writer, then you write.”
~ Hampton Fancher

“That was the most disappointing thing to me in how this thing was played. Is that I’m on the phone with you now, after all that’s been said, and the fundamental distinction between what James is dealing with in these other cases is not actually brought to the fore. The fundamental difference is that James Franco didn’t seek to use his position to have sex with anyone. There’s not a case of that. He wasn’t using his position or status to try to solicit a sexual favor from anyone. If he had — if that were what the accusation involved — the show would not have gone on. We would have folded up shop and we would have not completed the show. Because then it would have been the same as Harvey Weinstein, or Les Moonves, or any of these cases that are fundamental to this new paradigm. Did you not notice that? Why did you not notice that? Is that not something notable to say, journalistically? Because nobody could find the voice to say it. I’m not just being rhetorical. Why is it that you and the other critics, none of you could find the voice to say, “You know, it’s not this, it’s that”? Because — let me go on and speak further to this. If you go back to the L.A. Times piece, that’s what it lacked. That’s what they were not able to deliver. The one example in the five that involved an issue of a sexual act was between James and a woman he was dating, who he was not working with. There was no professional dynamic in any capacity.

~ David Simon