Fowler, the citizen journalist whose on-the-scene reporting resulted in what was immediately termed "Bittergate," has left Huffpo, saying she's no longer willing to blog for free. In her farewell post, Fowler scorched some earth, calling Arianna Huffington "the quintessential opportunist" who treats her non-famous writers as disposable, and suggesting that Huffington's claims to be building an online "community" are just so much hot air.
Huffpo quickly struck back. A spokesman debunked Fowler's "resignation" -- "How do you resign from a job you never had?" -- and accused her of being the real opportunist. "At the end of the day, Mayhill Fowler asked for a paid position; we chose not to offer her one," he wrote. " [S]he is trying to turn that rejection into something that exemplifies a fault line between new media practices and traditional media practices. Hardly."
Golden Parachute of Publicity
Of course Fowler is trying to make her departure into a big fat deal. Huffington has always said that she pays her non-professional bloggers in visibility rather than dollars. Fowler is, in essence, just trying to maximize her golden parachute of publicity.
I am reminded of Dennis Kneale lecturing The Daily Beast's Peter Lauria for his rudeness in publishing an incriminating voicemail left by Sumner Redstone. In this case, however, there's an added layer of hypocrisy, Huffpo having been only too happy to benefit from Fowler's disregard for journalistic niceties -- such as the time she hid a recorder in her cleavage while talking to Clinton. Not so fun to be on the other end, is it?