AOL/HuffPo to movie journos: You’re fired, unless you want to write for free

The wonderful Cinematical has imploded. It debuted as an independent entity, later it got caught up when its small-potatoes owner was purchased by AOL, then it was subsumed into the Hollywood asskissing site Moviefone (also owned by AOL). And still it didn’t die. It took Huffington Post — which appears to be taking over AOL, not the other way around — to nail the coffin shut. After all the great writers who made Cinematical special had jumped ship, as editor in chief Erik Davis finally did yesterday, this email went out to Cinematical’s freelancers yesterday (via BetaBeat):

Dear Moviefone/Cinematical Writers,

I know there’s been a lot of uncertainty regarding the future of freelancers and your status as a writer for the site. I personally apologize for the lack of communication, but I’ll tell you what I can…

Sometime soon–this week, I believe–many of you will be receiving an email informing you that your services as a freelancer will no longer be required. You will be invited to contribute as part of our non-paid blogger system; and though I know that for many of you this will not be an option financially, I strongly encourage you to consider it if you’d like to keep writing for us, because we value all of your voices and input.

Emphasis mine.

AOL/HuffPo values the voices and input of its writers… just not enough to pay them. So please do continue to do the excellent work you’ve been doing, Cinematical and Moviefone writers, just don’t expect to get paid for it.

I felt like I’d been kicked in the stomach when told me they no longer wanted me writing for them. But at least they didn’t invite me to continue working for them for free. That would have been even more insulting.

See also “Mourning the End of an Era at Cinematical” at IFC News if you want to be even more depressed about the state of movie journalism online today.

I’m not sure how sites like the new AOL/HuffPo Cinematical expect to maintain their readership without input from professional writers. Maybe the folks of AOL/HuffPo simply don’t care. They can trawl for traffic via SEO manipulation, and that’s all they need. And they’ll continue to make millions in the process.

I’m about ready to jump off a bridge somewhere…

UPDATE: Hilarious HuffPo backpedaling ensues! See here…

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