Last night at Carriageworks Annabel Crabb asked Ms Huff why she did not pay bloggers. She responded that she didn't need to. She believes that people want to write, and they will write anyway, and she offers them a platform - much like Tumblr or Facebook - on which to express themselves. They gain valuable exposure, which is payment enough. And besides, why should she pay them? They are willing to write for free!
She also (very cleverly) pointed out that Annabel's guests on her TV show are not paid. So that's pretty much the same thing, right?
Well, let's take that point by point.
- The Huff Post is a platform, but it is not a site like Tumblr or Facebook. The latter are free-for-alls. Anyone can post, anyone can write. But the Huff Post is not a public platform. Only a select few get to write for the Huff Post. They are chosen specifically so that their words will earn income for the company. So the comparison is invalid.
- Yes, many people want to write. Many people enjoy expressing themselves creatively. And yes, as Ms Huff states, they will write anyway. But writing for yourself is like painting for yourself. It's lovely to express yourself in a painting or work of art. You can't expect to be paid for that. But if someone wishes to take your painting and hang it in their own environment, so that other people will be lured into that environment and spend money, they should damn well pay for it.
- Not paying guests on a TV show is not the same thing as not paying a guest writer. A guest on a TV show is an interview subject, and it is anathema to journalism to pay for interviews. Whether or not Annabel pays her interviewees is utterly irrelevant. I can guarantee, however, that her producers pay the writers, the camera operators, the makeup artists, the directors, the lighting people, and everyone else involved in the making of the show. And that is the only appropriate comparison.
- Underpayment or non-payment of particular professions is a serious problem from a feminist perspective. Traditionally, women have engaged in roles which are performed for love, rather than money. Teaching, nursing, social work etc have been underpaid for years because the people performing those roles - usually women - will do them anyway. This does not make it right. These people who are working in fields they are passionate about deserve payment as much as people working purely for money.
- Yes, there are thousands of people willing to work for the Huff Post unpaid. They are willing to work unpaid because they feel they don't have a choice, because the systems in place - the systems maintained and perpetrated by the Huff Post, among others - give them no choice. And this is the very definition of exploitation: taking advantage of people who feel they have no choice.