backpedaling is beautiful: AOL/HuffPo attempts damage control

Only an hour after I posted the hideous email sent to Cinematical freelancers about how they were invited to continue working for the now-AOL/HuffPo-owned site, I received this email, from Mario Ruiz, senior vice president for media relations for Huffington Post Media Group:

Dear Mary Ann, the email from Patricia Chui had lots of misinformation. She herself sent out a follow-up email…

Here is my statement on the matter: The Huffington Post Media Group has provided freelancers with as much clarity as possible about our intention to build a great team of full-time editors, writers, and reporters, and we regret that Patricia’s email misrepresents these efforts. In fact, we have been very forthcoming and transparent in our communication with freelancers through multiple calls and emails and have encouraged freelancers to apply for full-time positions. But we never asked freelancers to become unpaid bloggers — that is not how our group blog works. Our bloggers, many of whom are not professional writers, post on the HuffPost platform to expose their views to a wide audience, and to raise their profiles. Thank you

And the followup from Chui that he mentions. Here it is:

From: Chui, Patricia
Sent: Tuesday, April 05, 2011 07:06 PM
To: MoviefoneWriters
Subject: Update: Moviefone/Cinematical Writers Status

I wanted to clarify a couple of things about the email I sent earlier today.

During the AOL / Huffington Post integration, we’ve been trying to provide our writers with as much clarity as possible, via emails and conference calls, regarding the future of freelancers at AOL. I know there are a lot of questions, and we’re doing our best to address them as best and as quickly as we can.

I especially want to clarify that we have not been asking freelancers (i.e., any of you) to become unpaid bloggers.

In no way did I mean to communicate that you were being asked to write for free, and I apologize for the misrepresentation.

As I mentioned in my email, conversations about freelancers are still ongoing. There may still be opportunities for people to write freelance for Moviefone and Cinematical, and I promise to keep updating you.


Patricia J. Chui

And this is what I told Ruiz in response:

Sorry, but her email most certainly DID ask former paid freelancers to be unpaid bloggers. It’s there as clear as day.

If that’s not what she meant to write, then she is clearly incapable of expressing herself via the written word and has no business being an editor of anything.

Seriously: How on earth does “we have no intention of asking paid freelancers to write for free” come out as “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.” There doesn’t seem to be a lot of room for “misrepresentation.”

There does, however, seem to be lots of room for backpedaling.

I’ll post Chui’s followup email. But if you hope it’s going to make her, AOL, or HuffPo look any better, I think you’re in for a rude surprise.

Fun fun fun.

Perhaps HuffPo is capable of shame. That would make for a refreshing change.

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