The Huffington Post announced that it will immediately cease its unpaid contributors program — which led to its rise as a media brand — to improve the editorial quality of the news site and cut down on unvetted reporting.
HuffPost’s blogger network has ballooned to some 100,000 contributors. The decision to end the program by the Verizon-owned site comes under editor-in-chief Lydia Polgreen, who joined in December 2016 after more than a decade at the New York Times.
“Open platforms that once seemed radically democratizing now threaten, with the tsunami of false information we all face daily, to undermine democracy,” Polgreen wrote in a blog post Thursday. “When everyone has a megaphone, no one can be heard.”
Also Thursday, HuffPost launched a new opinion section, with regular columnists and commissioned contributors, and HuffPost Personal, which will feature first-person essays by guest writers, as well as features, Q&As and interviews written by staff reporters covering celebs, newsmakers and regular people.
AOL acquired HuffPost in 2011 for $315 million, and then Verizon bought AOL in a $4.4 billion deal in 2015. HuffPost is now part of Verizon’s Oath division, which has combined AOL and Yahoo businesses under one roof.
In 2016, Arianna Huffington left her namesake online publication to focus on her new company, health and well-being startup Thrive Global.
Early on, critics of the site — which launched in 2005 — had complained about HuffPost’s network of unpaid contributors and its practice of “aggregating” other news organizations’ reporting. But in recent years Huffington Post also assembled large staff of journalists doing original reporting. In 2012, the site won a Pulitzer Prize for a series on wounded veterans and their families.
Polgreen, in her blog post, said numerous notable personalities have blogged on HuffPost, including then-presidential candidate Barack Obama and Jennifer Aniston writing about body-shamers.
Ultimately, HuffPost’s sprawling contributor network simply became more trouble than it was worth. For example, an unknown party paid a Pakistani national to publish a piece on HuffPost last month defending Donald Trump business associate Felix Sater, whose tax-fraud charges were dismissed. The post has since been deleted.