A top editor at AOL's Huffington Post Media Group’s Moviefone was fired Wednesday after suggesting in an email that terminated freelancers should consider contributing to the website for free, the Wall Street Journal reports.
Some critics say the decision to fire Moviefone Editor-in-Chief Patricia Chiu is hypocritical considering Huffington Post’s controversial longtime practice of not paying contributors to the site.
Chiu reportedly circulated a memo to freelancers and bloggers who had just received notice that they were fired as part of a company restructuring that would include a move back to using mostly paid staff journalists. But it was her suggestion that the freelancers should continue to work for free that reportedly landed Chiu in hot water.
“We will, indeed, be moving away from a freelancer model and toward one relying on full-time staffers,” the e-mail read. “Sometime soon – this week, I believe – many of you will be receiving an [email] informing you that your services as a freelancer will no longer be required. 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.”
Last month, the national Newspaper Guild called for a boycott of Huffington Post after a “refusal to compensate its thousands of writers in the wake of its $315 million merger with AOL.”
But AOL/Huffington Post rep Mario Ruiz defended the website’s practices, saying most of their free bloggers are “not professional writers.”
"People blog on HuffPost for free for the same reason they go on cable TV shows every night for free: because they are passionate about their ideas, want them to be heard by the largest possible audience, and understand the value that that kind of visibility can bring," Ruiz told FoxNews.com in a March email.
"There's no commitment; they can post as frequently or infrequently as they would like to. The Huffington Post makes no claim of ownership over their posts, and they can cross-post on other sites, including their own," he said.
According to the Wall Street Journal, the email wasn’t Chiu’s first misstep.
Several weeks ago, she reportedly urged staffers to take into consideration the need to maintain positive relationships with movie studios when making editorial decisions.
“The reality of our situation is that, as a movies site, we work with movie studios every day, and it is in our best interests to stay on good terms with them,” she is quoted as writing. “Staying on good terms with studios means that we will relay information if asked. It does not mean that we would ever force a writer or an editor to edit their work for the sake of a studio – or anyone else.”
AOL's $315 million purchase of HuffingtonPost has resulted in AOL laying off roughly 20 percent of its workforce, or about 900 employees. According to the New York Post, none of Huffington Post’s staff was affected.
On Wednesday, AOL also fired the last of its freelancers at its business and finance sites, AOL Daily Finance and Walletpop. According to Business Insider, the full-time staff at those sites is down to 1-2 employees.
FoxNews.com's Diane Macedo contributed to this report.