Earlier today, we published a note from an AOL freelance journalist reporting that AOL’s business-and-finance freelancers had been canned.
AOL’s business-and-finance editor Peter Goodman sent us the note below in response.
Peter says that AOL’s business-and-finance freelancers have not all been canned: Some of them are being hired into full-time jobs.
Otherwise, Peter’s take is basically the same as that of the freelancer who sent us the note: AOL is moving away from freelancers toward full-time staff (which is understandably distressing to some freelancers). Peter’s note just emphasises the positive view of this transition–the reasons AOL is doing what it is doing, and why they make sense.
(We agree with those reasons, by the way, as we said earlier).
Here’s Peter’s note:
While we much appreciate your interest in the many exciting happenings here at the Huffington Post Media Group inside AOL, your item this morning reporting a mass termination of freelancers staffing AOL’s business and finance sites is simply false. No such communication has gone out. In fact, we have been hiring many freelancers into full-time jobs and will continue to do so in the weeks to come.
Worse, is the implication in your post that we are replacing high-paid veterans with inexperienced writers in order to cut cost. We have been investing aggressively in building a modern newsroom at our headquarters here in New York, and I would delighted to show you around anytime you like. One simple walk across the newsroom floor should quickly dispel any sense that we are diminishing scope and ambition, or opting for penny-pinching mode. [To clarify, we did not say AOL was cutting costs. In fact, we pointed out that AOL had paid astronomical salaries for some top-notch folks and that we agreed with the full-time vs freelance transition.]
We have been bringing in dozens of highly talented and, in many cases, deeply experienced writers and editors to staff our sections, and this is a process that has only begun. As someone who has worked for two decades inside traditional newspaper newsrooms — all of them now figuring out how to make do with fewer people — it is genuinely exciting to be building out this increasingly teeming place.
It is true that we are shifting from relying on freelancers and contractors to investing in full-time staff. We feel this gives everyone greater security and a shared mission. And we do want people right here in the newsroom, to participate in the sorts of spontaneous conversations that often yield the best ideas. This is something about which we are unabashed and even proud: We are assembling a first-rate group of full-time staff to take us forward. In many cases, we have been hiring people who have previously been freelancers into these full-time jobs. And, in some cases where geographic reach is needed (for example, autos coverage in Detroit), we are keeping people in place beyond the company’s core offices in New York, Washington, and Los Angeles.
In many instances we are directing the freelance budget in its entirety to hiring the best staff people. This is not about cost savings; it’s about aiming for journalistic excellence, and having on hand the most dedicated, talented and highly motivated group of people in our midst to pursue that goal.
Finally, I want to take on directly this persistent idea that people who have been paid to write and report will be replaced by people who write for free. This is simply not true. We are, again, transitioning from paying people to write under freelance contracts to people paid to write on a full-time staff basis.
At the same time, we will continue to embrace the contributions of a wholly different group of people — our enormous, diverse, vibrant community of bloggers. These are people who are free to write or not write as they choose. We own no claim on their time, or guarantee on production. We rely on their insights, their expertise and their entertainment value, and they ride our platform to promote their books, advance their causes, and reach a bigger audience with their ideas. This has been a productive relationship for many — not least, our swiftly growing readership — and it will continue and expand across the AOL sites that are now part of our shared Huffington Post Media Group Enterprise. But the blogging component will not replace the work of hired, professional journalists who write for us as members of our staf.
Thanks very much for allowing me to clarify this, and please don’t hesitate to take me up on an offer for a tour.