[credit provider=”Arianna Huffington’s Twitter stream” url=”http://twitter.com/ariannahuff”]
Since Aol purchased the Huffington Post from Arianna Huffington in February for $315 million most of the subsequent coverage has focused on the widespread layoffs of Aol employees; the hiring of experienced reporters (many of whom are notably from the NYT, but more on that later); and Arianna’s verbal tete-a-tetes with NYT managing editor Bill Keller.But very little has been said about the HuffPo employees themselves. Many of whom have been with Arianna for years, and who, on many levels, are responsible for building HuffPo and making it at valuable as it was.
Turns out many of them are not happy.
That’s how one HuffPo insider described the weeks following the official merger between HuffPo and Aol.
“The worst few weeks.”
And the cracks are beginning to show. In the last two weeks alone we are told HuffPo has lost a number of its longtime employees on both the editorial and tech side.
Ryan McCarthy, the site’s longstanding business editor who was instrumental in boosting the Biz page’s credibility/popularity over the last few years, is moving to Reuters to be the deputy editor. It’s worth noting HuffPo’s Business Page recently won a Webby.
Jai Singh, who came on as HuffPo’s managing editor in 2009, left the company earlier this month to take over as editor-in-chief at Yahoo.
Also, out is longtime Style page editor Anya Strzemien, who was instrumental and making HuffPost Style one of the highest traffic sections on the site. Strzemien recently joined Jane Pratt’s new site XOJane.com
Also on the way out, Rob Fishman who was in charge of Social News and Media, as well as Jeff Revesz who founded Adaptive Semantics, the algorithm HuffPost uses to moderate content and keep conversations intelligent (ish).
It is, of course, not unusual to see departures following a merger. Company-wide shake-ups such as this can provide longtime employees with a chance to reassess and move in new directions. (Update to wit: Revesz writes to clarify his departure is both amicable and unrelated to the merger.)
It’s worth noting, however, that to the best of our knowledge none of these folks were pushed out.
In fact, we are told that the “toxic” climate that has descended on the HuffPo offices following the merger has as much to do with the upheaval as anything else and that “a lot of people are not happy.”
“HuffPo used to be such a supportive place, where we were all in it together,” one person we spoke to said, “but it’s turned into a place of ‘no’ at Aol.”
Aol has brought in a “weird corporate culture,” we were told, which perhaps is not surprising considering the fact they are such a large corporation. However, this person added “Aol is a company that is desperate and acting like it.”
Things did not start out badly. By all accounts many HuffPo employees were pretty excited by the merger and there was a general sense Aol was buying the company for a reason. However, it soon became clear Aol was “not interested in bringing HuffPo’s way of doing things to Aol.”
One of the people we spoke to conceded a lot of the current problems are rooted in typical growing pains. As anyone who has worked for a company that experiences quick growth or success knows the road to expansion can be bumpy.
But a lot of the resentment also appears to be rooted in the sense that the HuffPo staff was brushed aside.
One person we spoke to noted that the shift in power structure was immediately noticeable. When the newly formed Huffington Post Media Group moved into Aol HQ at Broadway and 9th we’re told all the glass offices were given to newly hired New York Times reporters while the HuffPo employees — “the people who made the $315 million for her” — remained on the open floor.
Another insider, however, tells us the set up was intended to keep the office layout for HuffPost people similar to the open seating “news room” configuration at the former SoHo office.
Either way the role the New York Times appears to be playing in the new HuffPo Media Group can’t be understated. By the sounds of it there are three competing cultures at HuffPo now: Aol, HuffPo, and the New York Times.
“Arianna has it out for Bill Keller,” one insider tells us.
And her recent actions seem to bear that out.
In addition to the public verbal squabbles Arianna has been in with Bill Keller these last few months (and to be clear, Keller has been the bigger squabbler) Huffington has seemingly gone out of her way to snap up New York Times employees to staff up her new venture.
In the last few months Arianna has hired the NYT’s Maura Egan (Style); Tim O’Brien (national editor); Peter Goodman (business); and Tom Zeller (energy). O’Brien and Goodman were reportedly paid a low-to-mid six figures to come aboard.
Certainly these hires have been greeted by the media world with a chorus of approval, and rightly so: They are all excellent and respected journalists.
And while we’re told there was an expectation amongst some HuffPost editors that the NYT hires were very senior and would be managing day to day editorial operations at a high level, we were also told that a lot of the HuffPo staff — some of whom have been there for many years — are feeling the merger has resulted their career prospects have been compromised or unfulfilled.