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Despite the shit!

Another Day, Another Attack on The Writer’s Ego

Thanks for nothing HuffPost

HuffPost — was formerly — The Huffington Post named after co-founder and editor-in-chief — Arianna Huffington who along with Andrew Breibart, Kenneth Lerer, and Jonah Peretti — established the roving portal back in 2005 as the premier destination for liberals who have a lot to say and are willing to be loud about it.

Back in 2005 — I was living in Los Angeles — trying to convince myself I had chosen the better coast — which I had — but that didn’t stop me from heading back east the following year in an effort to initiate another decade of mental masochism.

When I was twenty-four — I moved to New York City as a bright-eyed and bushy-haired girl with just one simple dream — I wanted to be a writer.

I daydreamed that I would be feted by big name publications to the point of blissful hysteria. I knew I could write because I published my first set of poems at the age of nine — right after my maternal grandpa passed away from a diabetic attack — and I was stuck in my room trying to organize my new reality.

I was certain I could write because my British literature professor read my work out loud in front of my college peers. I listened and watched with stunned pride as Professor Vogel demonstrated her belief that my words were worth sharing in such a prime setting.

I was convinced I would make it anywhere because I was assured my literal fluidity would manifest all the expectations I had been festering since I was a teen — surrounded by the friendship of Chinua Achebe, William Shakespeare and the Bronte sisters.

Alas! Even at the ripened age of twenty-two — when I should’ve been a seasoned reporter with enough skills to hastily publish viral jargon at the behest of traffic-malnourished editors — and more than enough socially mandated angst to curse out a well-respected journalist for being tragically past her expiration date — I was haplessly immersed in the thankless world of telemarketing — while sorting through the piles of rejection letters.

In case you’re confused — “rejection letters” were pretty much the only link between you and the industry of your choice. Back in the day — twenty-two-year-olds had to design query letters to fit the requirements of magazines — that they were never going to hire them — because the insanely busy editors were stubbornly waiting for the day when all they would have to do is click their way to you.

Needless to say — I was too focused on keeping my dreams alive to even make space for the prospect that there would actually be a day when I could write whatever I wanted on a thing called a “blog” — activated and operated according to my specifications.

This life-altering invention happened when I was in my thirties — after I had surrendered to the corporate day job that had zero to do with my skill set or varied interests.

I evolved into a workaholic — who was prepared to do whatever in order to have that coveted byline. The Twitterverse wasn’t anywhere near what it is now — which means that my ambitious piece on the annual chocolate fashion show at the Javits Center got virtually no attention. Neither did the spectacular art event in Southampton — showcasing artists primarily from the African-Caribbean Diaspora.

But, I still wrote my heart out — as if the visitor count for my website was impressive enough to warrant such commitment. I took side hustles to encourage my visibility even though I wasn’t getting any coins. It was all about feeding my craft and putting in the work so I could enjoy the benefits later.

When they say “pay your dues” — there’s no doubt that I did exactly that and then some.

From racing through my lunch break to interview an up-and-coming African filmmaker across town— for an African entertainment magazine that abruptly let me go when they discovered I had a blog of my own — to working tirelessly on a press release for an African-inspired fashion house that weirdly released me from duty with no adequate explanation — I did all that and more — FOR FREE.

So, of course by the time I found Medium — I was beginning to get to that place where your worth becomes more than just the pleasantries that always leave you just as hungry as you were before you submitted that 667 word essay. I had a great run with Clutch magazine and a couple of other outlets that were geared towards the life experiences of young African-American women — but those gigs don’t last forever.

In fact they don’t last for very long unless you have at least 5,000 followers on Twitter. Actually make that 10,000.

Medium ended up being my one and only for quite awhile. I discarded my own blog and decided to put all my eggs in one basket by focusing all my efforts on building an audience — and writing as if my life depended on it.

Early days at Medium…

Things progressed quicker and more effeciently than I could’ve ever imagined and before long — other publications started asking to republish my work. One of them was The Huffington Post.

I had tried plenty of times to be a contributor for The Huffington Post — but to no avail. I almost secured an editorial job there — but the results of my “edit test” were apparently less than stellar. I consoled myself with the fact that the salary would’ve been absolute shit anyway — so I had definitely dodged a bullet.

But of course I envied anyone who managed to secure a blog on the world-renowned platform — and so when I was approached via Twitter by an editor who saw my viral essay about the missing Nigerian school girls on Medium — and wanted very much to add it to her similarly-themed loot — I gratifyingly agreed to the chance of much-needed exposure.

It didn’t take long to realize that despite all the pieces that were getting poached from Medium and reposted on a site that I thought would grant me some level of notoriety — the ability to attain decent visibility was derailed by all the shit plastered on the grossly-chaotic pages.

The editors weren’t really interested in my work — they just needed to make sure they were scouting the best of the best — and as long as Medium was highlighting my shit — that meant there was space for it.

It became offensively debilitating to be an active part of the “digital recycling era” that was slowly but aggressively morphing into what we’re currently embodying.

I’m not sure what prompted the editors to stop hassling me — but eventually the emails and direct messages stopped — and I was finally free to utilize my “contributor page” in any fashion I saw fit. For me — that meant highlighting talents of color in the industry — who needed a nice writeup — ahead of upcoming projects.

Here are some of my favorites from my “now-defunct” series:

I enjoyed my burgeoning series and was hoping to catapult it into a full -fledged business since I was gaining traction from PR firms who got the recommendations that led them to me. I actually received another assignment just last week( first of the year!) and was in the middle of staging it when I glanced at my Twitter feed this morning and read this:

Yeah — HuffPost has decided that it can’t continue to host an explosion of content in this “current climate” — and has opted to do the honorable thing by “taking ownership” of what is deemed acceptable for publishing — as per editor-in-chief — Lydia Polgreen.

I guess there’s no time like the present when it comes to realizing the most basic of principles, which centers around the mission of escaping the conveniently lazy approach to journalism by compensating talented writers who produce quality work.

Polgreen may seem like the hero of the week for ending the practice of devaluing and demeaning really good content for the sake of traffic numbers and upholding the legacy of a dying brand — but her actions were inconsiderate and a testament to why the egos of writers are constantly attacked from strikes within their industry.

Before I glared at the headlines announcing the demise of my HuffPost blog — I had no idea this was even a possibility. There were no emails sent to contributors ahead of time to warn about this impending and drastic revision to our agreement. There was no consideration for those of us who were flourishing independently — and expected the good times to roll until we were ready to move on. There was no thought process that inspired more than an ounce of respect for writers who maybe had just started to utilize the platform — or had been doing so long enough to sorely miss it if the privilege was taken away without any warning.

This is because writers are deemed expendable by others who should know better — considering their trajectory and station in life. And this truth bleeds into other facets of the workforce and gives perspective clients the audacity to either dismiss the notion of paying us — or offer an amount that is almost as insulting as working for free.

The email regarding the new face of HuffPost entered my inbox after I peeped the breaking news on my timeline — and my reaction was the same.

It’s nice to know that those who take the time to pitch — will have the options I didn’t have when I was too busy giving away my best essays for free. It just feels like a slap in the face to be unceremoniously dispensed with — as if my presence contributed to the virus that I’ve been fighting so hard to avoid.

My series will go on elsewhere and I don’t plan on ever pitching anything to HuffPost in the future. And all I have to say as I collect my items and re-locate to a more welcoming host:

Thanks for nothing!

Written by

Juggling Wordsmith. I have a lot to say!

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