Monday, September 12, 2011
All Work and No Play Makes Arianna a Rich Woman*
You know, I tend to defend the Huffington Post, despite the fire it's drawn lately over its content and lack of willingness to pay a lot of the people who supply it. My decision to continue contributing to the site is one I've explained more than once so I'm not going to bother going down that road again. You want to write for the site? Great. You think Arianna's a tyrannical modern-day plantation owner? Again, great -- don't give her your time and effort.
All of that said, in the immortal words of Ian Malcolm, "HuffPost High School" is one of the worst ideas in the long, sad history of bad ideas:
"It will join an ever-expanding constellation of topic sites that already includes religion, tech, parenting and divorce. But it will be unique in that it will be the only site produced by minors: Its editor, wunderkind Myles Miller, is only 17, and it will feature the work of teenage bloggers.
Meanwhile, Patch, the network of more than 800 hyperlocal news sites also overseen by AOL editor in chief Arianna Huffington, is also soliciting adolescent contributors from high schools — and even middle schools — as it seeks to recruit thousands of community bloggers.
The practice raises new questions of privacy and ethics. People share overly personal information and make fools of themselves on the web every day, but the impulsiveness of teenagers plus the visibility of Huffpo could be a uniquely combustible mixture. Should teenagers who can’t legally vote, drink or have sex be allowed to decide for themselves what to publish in a place where it could potentially be read by millions of people? What if a 15-year-old wants to write confessionally about having an abortion... or joke about smoking marijuana...? And what if that 15-year-old’s parent wants to have that posting deleted? And what if that parent is divorced, and his ex-spouse who shares custody gives her permission?"
That's Jeff Bercovici, the damn good -- and surprisingly well-paid -- media writer for Forbes, and he's pretty much dead-on. Adults making the informed decision to contribute to HuffPo is one thing; enlisting a bunch of 14-year-olds to write for you for free is something completely different. The kind of audacious arrogance that would make a company think it can get away with something like that is the sort of thing that could -- at least in a just world -- spell its undoing.
Although Arianna's on to something if her aim is to use this program to teach kids about journalism in the modern age.
Lesson #1: Get ready to starve.
*Sorry, Arianna. My pathetic need to prove how clever I am generally trumps my desire not to burn bridges. Nothin' but love.