Arianna Huffington, center, with staff at The Huffington Post
Yesterday my friend Sharon Butler posted a version of her response to My Jerry Saltz Problem on The Huffington Post. With a business model that I find problematic, Arianna Huffington's site is one of my new-media bugaboos. Like you know who on you know what, HuffPost relies on the unpaid content of its writers to add to the cumulative luster to its owner. I'm not the first to say this. Mayhill Fowler wrote the definitive HuffPost protest essay.
Shift change for writers at The Huffington Post
With these thoughts in mind, I wrote a response to Sharon's post that addressed my concerns and uploaded it as a comment on The Huffington Post. It read:
Hi Sharon, I'm glad to see you get to pull the oars at The Huffington Post for some stale breadcrumbs and the pleasure of the lash (a quote from my article). What still concerns me are those qualities we lose in the migration from print-style production to online. What I mean is the system of editors and fact checkers and a print publication's self-imposed brand standards, which serve to guide critical behavior. And then there is print's ability to provide income to the writer. On the upside, the great benefit of online writing and social networking is its low barrier to entry. I also enjoy using new media (and have become addicted to Twitter in particular). On the downside, online writing offers few of the qualities that have made print great, in particular the ability to provide financial support for people who write for a living. I wrote a summary about the responses to "My Jerry Saltz Problem" (including this essay) here. http://www.supremefiction.com/theidea/2011/01/my-jerry-saltz-problem-any-solutions.html Also in my forthcoming in the February issue of The New Criterion I discuss the upside of online writing for the world of art. Look for it at newcriterion.com on February 1.
After an invasive registration process, I pushed the comment button at The Huffington Post last night and waited. And waited. First my comment showed up in the HuffPost's "pending" category. As I waited some more, plenty of other comments went up singing the praises of new media (and by extension The Huffington Post).
And then this morning, my comment disappeared. Poof! For a time, the staff moderators at HuffPost refused/deleted/turned my comment to soylent green. Just what aspect of their moderation policy did I violate? I am still not sure. Could my comment have disappeared because it was critical of the site? Who knows. It was only after I contacted Sharon directly that HuffJokePost pulled my letter from its shredder and posted it. Erroneously, it said that I had posted it yesterday, even though the comment had just gone up.
Are these the journalistic standards we can expect in the new media revolution? As Lincoln Steffens remarked upon returning from a trip to the Soviet Union in 1919: "I have seen the future, and it works." Not.