HuffPost, Breaking From Its Roots, Ends Unpaid Contributions


Recently, for instance, a contributor with the byline Waqas KH published an article about Felix Sater, an associate of President Trump, that he had been paid to post. The site has since deleted the article.

In place of the unpaid contributors platform, the site introduced new opinion and personal sections that will include paid contributors who will work with HuffPost editors.

The elimination of the platform, which drove 10 to 15 percent of the site’s traffic, is only the latest change for the site since Ms. Polgreen, 42, took the helm after Ms. Huffington stepped down. In short order, she changed the site’s name and redesigned its home page. Though she is closing one of the site’s most populist components, she has also articulated an inclusive vision for the site inspired by big-city tabloids and local television news and aimed at an ideologically agnostic population of Americans who are “never going to pay for news.”


Arianna Huffington, who helped found the site nearly 13 years ago, stepped down as editor in chief in 2016. Credit Gregor Fischer/European Pressphoto Agency

Her first year has not been without its challenges. Over the summer, HuffPost laid off some 40 employees, including the site’s only Pulitzer Prize winner, David Wood. (HuffPost has roughly 210 editorial employees in the United States, in addition to the 340 who work for its international editions.) Within the company, there was a sense that the Washington bureau had been hit particularly hard, which some viewed as unsettling given HuffPost’s long association with political reporting.

Also, Ryan Grim, the Washington bureau chief, and Sam Stein, the senior politics editor, left the site last year. Ms. Polgreen has refocused the political coverage to include more in-depth reporting beyond Washington and New York.

“We’re thinking less about how many people are crawling around the halls of Congress asking the same questions to the same senators all day every day,” she said. She added that she wanted to have “a large cadre of journalists” who reported from around the country.


Ms. Polgreen said she wanted to have “a large cadre of journalists” reporting for HuffPost from around the country. Credit Vincent Tullo for The New York Times

And while Ms. Polgreen has not been shy about sharing her vision for HuffPost and her opinions about journalism — she has appeared three times on CNN’s media analysis program, “Reliable Sources,” since joining HuffPost and is a frequent presence at media events — not all of her ambitious plans have been borne out yet. Ms. Polgreen, for instance, has yet to hire any reporters outside Washington and New York. She said in the interview that she had been focused first on building out an editing team and intended to hire more reporters this year.

Traffic to the site has fallen in the last several years, though Ms. Polgreen said she cared more about connecting with readers than audience size. Neither she nor Jared Grusd, HuffPost’s chief executive, would comment on whether the company was profitable.

During the interview, in a conference room that serves as her makeshift office, Ms. Polgreen, a former correspondent and editor at The New York Times, spoke enthusiastically about her global ambitions (almost 60 percent of the site’s traffic comes from outside the United States) and her plans for HuffPost’s business model (she did not rule out offering some sort of subscription product in the future).

She also showed no concerns about running a historically left-leaning, labor-supporting website owned by the corporate giant Verizon.

“We’re working as part of a company that’s developing really exciting new products that will be consumed on mobile phones,” she said. “And we actually work for the phone company.”

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