The Huffington Post as Moral Compass?

The Huffington Post is-thus far-a success story for the hybrid news model of voluntary contribution mixed with professional journalism. Well, a success in the financial sense, at least.

So, it was probably inevitable that the volunteers eventually would start getting a bit disgruntled. After all, exposure doesn’t pay the rent.

Michelle Haimoff, a volunteer blogger, has made a detailed financial proposal for compensating bloggers, based on the Post’s earnings and the bloggers’ contributions to its content.

According to TNS Media Intelligence, The Huffington Post’s advertising revenue from January through April 2009 was $3.4 million. So let’s round down and assume that ad revenue for the year is $10 million. I propose that The Huffington Post commit to spending 20% of its revenue rewarding bloggers. For 2009, this would be $2 million.

The proposal looks reasonable enough. But, perhaps even more interestingly, Ms. Haimoff also pins some moral responsibility on Ms. Huffington to inch the industry back toward a professional model.

Additionally, and perhaps less capitalistically, The Huffington Post has a responsibility as a new media pioneer to set a payment precedent that values content providers. Perhaps Arianna’s only concern is the bottom line, but considering that she is a woman who has been a politician, an author and a radio personality, itwould seem that she isn’t just in it for the money. She comes across as the type who would welcome the opportunity to shape the future of media in a way that takes into account both profitability and fairness.

What do you think? Do individual publications have a responsibility to set a standard for preserving the monetary value of news?

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Diana Dellamere is a former CJR staff writer.