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Kim Voynar

By Kim Voynar Voynar@moviecitynews.com

Boycott! Boycott! Boycott!

For the writers still there and posting at Moviefone as of today, I am imploring you, people, as one writer to another — as one decent (I hope) human being to another:

I know you, like everyone else, have bills to pay. I know the freelance film writing business is tough as hell, and the idea of voluntarily giving up a paid gig is a very tough sell right now. But you are selling your souls to the devil, you are denigrating your own integrity, and you are betraying every other writer who was canned.

Even worse, you are betraying your editors: Patricia Chui, who was fired for trying to communicate with you fairly and honestly. Peter Hall, Scott Weinberg, and Erik Davis, guys who went to the gauntlet for you, fought for you to the bitter, bloody end, and, in the case of Davis, turned down the job security of a full-time offer from AOL in a shitty, insecure economy because he could not, in good conscience, accept a salary from AOL while his writers lost their contracts. Erik has a wife, and a young daughter. He’s not independently wealthy. But he is a good, honest guy. He gave up his job, in part, to support you.

AOL/HuffPo is currently surrounded by a picket line, virtual or not. Every one of you still writing for HuffPo/AOL/Moviefone, what you are doing here is effectively being scabs and betraying your friends and colleagues for the sake of the pittance that corporate, soul-sucking monster is paying you.

Please, stop giving Arianna Huffington and AOL your writing. Please, show your editors who fought for you the respect they deserve and stop writing. AOL does not deserve any of you. The bean-counting, traffic hungry managers above you do not deserve any of you.

I repeat: There is a picket line around this site. If you are crossing it to work for them, folks, you are a scab.

BOYCOTT BOYCOTT BOYCOTT.

And if you BOYCOTT AOL/HuffPo, tell all your friends and family and ask them to do the same. Tweet it. Facebook it. Put it on your blog, like Daily Kos, which is also supporting the boycott.

BOYCOTT BOYCOTT BOYCOTT.

18 Responses to “Boycott! Boycott! Boycott!”

  1. Someone Special says:

    Hey did you try to contact these people privately before you posted this? You should have their email addresses from those leaked emails you posted.

  2. Atrox says:

    Who are you to call for a virtual picket line? You don’t have any skin in the game – if Hall, Weinberg & Davis had called for this it’d at least have some level of moral authority, but you literally have nothing to lose here. If the boycott works you’ll get attention, and if it doesn’t you’ve lost nothing.

    I’m not saying the idea’s without merit because obviously Huffington’s botched this transition in the worst way possible – she currently, and rightfully, represents the death of paid writing. But the casual fervor with which you ask people to quit their jobs is frightening. You don’t know what kind of financial positions these people are in.

    When union leadership call for a strike, they do so knowing full well the financial state of their members. You don’t, because you’re not involved in this. As one decent human being (I hope) to another, you should take this down and talk to these people before you call for them to sever their means of financial support in the worst job market since the great depression. It looks like there aren’t many Moviefone people left anyway – can’t you just email them through their bios on the site?

  3. Kim Voynar says:

    Atrox, I’m not calling for a virtual picket line. Just supporting the one that already exists. The people who work there, at the end of the day, have to make their own decision. I chose to leave AOL several years ago — without another job lined up, and with a family to support, just as Erik Davis did recently. That was my choice, and his choice. Others have to decide for themselves what they can live with for the sake of a paycheck.

    I am calling for a boycott of AOL/HuffPo, along with other people who also feel their actions should not be rewarded by traffic.

  4. Kim Voynar says:

    “Someone Special,”

    The first email (the bland one firing everyone) had already been posted in several places around the internet before I wrote that piece. I just included it for the timeline and perspective. The second one, I spoke to several people both still in AOL and those who had left, including those who sent me the email (all of whom were included in the original email chain), about what was really going on behind the scenes around there.

    And before I posted the emails themselves, what was i them had already been making the rounds of Twitter, etc. All I did here was pull what was already all over the place, all together into one picture.

    There are details I left out of the piece that I felt were too inflammatory, or that could have cost some people still there their jobs had I posted them, so I chose to leave those bits out. Where people wanted to just vent to me and stay off the record, I absolutely respected that.

    I did not email Willy Volk, no. In part because he would have had no comment, because AOL would not have allowed him to have comment even if he had one, and in part because I felt that, by sending that email to so many people who had already resigned before he sent it, he had already effectively made it public. The emails that I was sent did not have a corporate disclaimer of privacy appended.

    You’re certainly free to disagree with it, though. And should AOL Legal come calling (they haven’t so far), it will be up to David to make a call as to whether it stays up.

  5. Don Murphy says:

    Comment deleted.

  6. Atrox says:

    Let me be clearer: did you ask the writers who still work for Moviefone to quit privately before you called on them to do so publicly? Did you try emailing them and talking to them about why they should quit before calling for their mass resignations in a blog post?

    If not, why?

    Nobody’s asking if you reached out to Willy Volk for comment, and nobody’s asking if you got permission before running those emails Volk accidently sent out.

  7. Stewart Nusbaumer says:

    Why is it important to ask the writers privately? If you don’t want to quit, don’t quit. If you believe you have valid reasons, then express them, either privately or publicly, or don’t.

  8. Someone Special says:

    Stewart: because you should find out if people you’re asking to quit their jobs will end up homeless?

    There’s a right way and a wrong way to plan and execute a work stoppage. If you want to hurt HuffPo, you need to build consensus, make allies, and most importantly get input from the people you’re asking to make the sacrifice.

    If she consulted them privately, and they refused, that’d be one reason to go public like this. But if she didn’t consult them then the question is why?

  9. Kim Voynar says:

    Atrox,

    Beg your pardon, I misread what you were asking.

    I have spoken privately to a good many people still (for the moment at least) working for AOL’s various properties. Those who are still there — and even some who have already resigned — asked that I keep what they had to say anonymous or off the record entirely. There’s a lot of fear at AOL these days. There are rumblings of internal rebellion, but whether anyone still there chooses to unite and take actual action is up to them collectively and as individuals.

    It’s not just about the specific people who are still there now, it’s also about making sure people keep hearing that there is a strike. Ultimately, everyone has to make the choice that’s right for them, of course. It’s true in any case where people have to make a moral choice — to whistle blow on your bosses doing something wrong, when you know that choice could cost thousands of people to lose their jobs; to strike against an auto manufacturer; to not work with a particular producer or sell your film to a particular distributor, even if they have money, because you know they have a reputation for screwing people over or just not being good people to work with or for.

    People make moral choices all the time when it comes to businesses. Different people have different philosophical beliefs on the relative importance of those choices, and that’s absolutely their right to disagree with me. And people certainly have a right to choose to value not being homeless, or keeping a roof over their kids’ heads, over not walking out on an AOL job without lining up another paycheck first.

    But, I think it’s also true that corruption can only exist and thrive when people are afraid to take action, for whatever reason. At the end of the day, everyone has to decide for themselves whether job security is the most important thing for them. And around AOL these days, “security” doesn’t really mean jack anyhow.

    Look, I used to think I “needed” a certain standard of living to be happy. I’ve learned that it’s possible to support my kids comfortably enough by being creative, because for me it’s more important to have the flexibility of working from home and having the time and freedom to work on other creative projects than it is to have the perceived greater benefit of the money I used to make working in the tech field a decade or so ago.

    Right now, because I choose to work in this field, I make much less money than I would be making if I’d chosen to stay on the tech career ladder years ago. And that is fine with me. Right now, my husband got laid off from his well-paying tech job a couple weeks ago. With that, he and I lost our health insurance — and as you may or may not know, I had a pancreatic tumor a couple years ago and am pretty much uninsurable if we’re not under a group policy. Things are very, very tight around here. We have six kids to support. Point is, I am not exactly sitting on high from some lofty job with fabulous pay and benefits looking down on people and saying “don’t support AOL and starve” while I’m eating cake, as it were.

    Bottom line: I just hope that anyone still choosing to work for AOL is looking at the bloodbath around there, and what’s happened to a lot of people there, and specifically to Patricia Chui, to see exactly how much that company values any of them as individuals. In a corporate environment like that, your job “security” is at the whim of people who could care less how hard you work, or how good you are, or how many bills you have to pay.

    That said, the “strike” itself is also about encouraging writers NOT to blog for free for HuffPo, and THAT is about Arianna Huffington getting rich off the free work of many, many people and then disdaining them. The boycott is about not supporting AOL and HuffPo’s business practices with traffic and links. I support both.

    Here’s a link to the Facebook page for “Hey Arianna, Can You Spare a Dime” (not started by me, but I certainly support the 1,300 or so people on it.) http://www.facebook.com/heyarianna

  10. Don Murphy says:

    Freedom of Speech only for those that Voynar likes!

  11. Kim Voynar says:

    Don, I’m leaving that comment, because you actually make a point rather than simply trying to insult me. It’s not a correct assumption, in that my choice to delete your comments the past few days has had nothing to do with liking you personally or not, but you seem to be indicating that you think I’m singling you out unfairly, so I will address that.

    This space is not a place for my friends to just hang out and agree with me. I welcome discussion, when it’s relevant. I will not tolerate bullying, name-calling, or personal attacks. People disagree with me all the time. You are free to disagree with me, when you have actual points to make. You are a big-money producer in Hollywood, and as such you certainly are capable of adding intelligent, relevant perspectives to the conversation, when you so choose.

    You do not have freedom of speech to come into my space for the purpose of harassing, insulting, or attacking me. And when you choose to do those things, I will continue to delete those comments and not engage with you at all in any back-and-forth about it.

    If you have something germane to add to the discussion, fine. I’m glad to hear it. You want to keep attacking, though, I’ll keep deleting. Has zero to do with whether I like you or not, and everything to do with how you choose to interact.

  12. Someone Special says:

    Kim: You didn’t answer my question, so I’ll ask it again. Did you talk to the specific people you’re asking to quit their jobs at Moviefone privately before you called on them to do so publicly? Yes or no?

    If the answer is no, a follow up question: why didn’t you talk to them first?

    If the answer is yes, a follow up question: what did they say?

    I didn’t ask if you’d “spoken privately to a good many people still (for the moment at least) working for AOL’s various properties” – I’m asking about the specific people you’re calling on to quit their jobs.

  13. Atrox says:

    You said that writers who were “posting at Moviefone as of today” were “selling your souls to the devil,” “denigrating your own integrity” and “betraying every other writer who was canned.”

    You said, “Every one of you still writing for HuffPo/AOL/Moviefone, what you are doing here is effectively being scabs and betraying your friends and colleagues for the sake of the pittance that corporate, soul-sucking monster is paying you.”

    And now you’re saying, “everyone has to make the choice that’s right for them.” Now you’re saying, “people certainly have a right to choose to value not being homeless, or keeping a roof over their kids’ heads, over not walking out on an AOL job without lining up another paycheck first. “

    So – and I’m using your own words here – if one were to continue to work for Moviefone, they’d be a “scab” who “betrayed” their “friends and colleagues” and was “selling your souls to the devil.”

    Is that your position on this? Those who continue to work at Moviefone are scabs and betrayers who’ve sold their souls to the devil?

  14. Kim Voynar says:

    Someone Special and Atrox,

    Responding to both of you at once for the sake of expediency, and then unless you have some new angle or something particularly interesting to add to the conversation, or opinion of your own to state, I’m going to have to table my end of this conversation, at least for now. I’m going out of town Wednesday morning and I have other work that needs to get done before then that I need to stop pulling my focus from.

    As an aside, you both seem to be under the impression is a legal proceeding or something, and you’ve been tasked with deposing me, which I find kind of amusing. You ask me what my stake is in this. I think I’ve made it pretty clear that my only personal stakes in this are the friends who were directly affected, and the destruction of Cinematical, which I helped build.

    And as a writer, I support those who wrote for free for HuffPo and then were treated like garbage, and the many contractors who wrote freelance for AOL properties and have now been tossed aside, simply because I don’t think it’s right to treat people that way. Not really any more complex than that, though you seem to want it to be.

    What’s YOUR stake in this, exactly?

    Anyhow.

    SS: No, I did not speak with anyone who is, at this precise moment, still working for Moviefone. There were a few people who resigned from Cinematical (which was a part of Moviefone), I understand, whose resignations got lost in the wash for a couple days in the wake of Patricia Chui getting fired, and so at the precise timestamp at which this piece went up, some of those people may have still technically been working for Moviefone/AOL so far as the corporation was concerned.

    Regardless, no, I did not specifically seek to talk to every person who writes for AOL, HuffPo, or any of its entities, including but not limited to Moviefone, nor did I solicit the opinions of each and every blogger who blogs now or ever has blogged for HuffPo for free, or the HuffPo writers who are paid to write, as to what they think of the strike or whether they support it. I wasn’t taking a poll.

    I did not think then, and do not think now, that asking anyone why they chose to continue to work for AOL, or whether they support a strike themselves, or how much their mortgage payment is, or any other of their financial particulars, is relevant to the overall moral issue of whether it’s right to cross a picket line.
    I no longer have a stake in AOL either way, I went on strike, so to speak, on my own, when I resigned several years ago in protest of the way things were going there in general, and specifically with regard to pay issues with our writing staff at that time.

    I didn’t call for the strike. I support the strike. I (as a general rule) support unions. You (or other people) may not. Everyone’s entitled to their opinion. We can delve into a deeper philosophical debate about whether there are absolute moral rights or wrongs or about labor rights generally another time, if you wish.

    Any strike hurts a lot of people financially. It’s rather the point of a strike that those striking understand they are putting themselves on the line because there is a greater benefit to be achieved or a point to make. That’s why it’s important, from a labor standpoint, that when a strike is called, it be supported. What makes this situation a bit different (and harder, in many respects) is that the HuffPo bloggers (and AOL freelancers, for that matter) don’t have the benefit of a guild like the WGA or DGA to back them up. Thus, the relative importance of the Newspaper Guild backing the strike.

    Those who oppose collective bargaining, workers’ rights, and the like, or who don’t consider the point being made by the strike relevant, or the benefit worth the risk to them personally relative to what they stand to lose, can certainly choose not to support the strike. There’s nothing, really, that anyone can do about that.

    If you’re a WGA member and you break strike, there are real consequences for that choice. Those who are striking against HuffPo don’t have that kind of weight backing them up, which makes it quite easy for others to break the strike, if they so choose. Unfortunate but true.

    So if you can work for AOL/HuffPo/Huffington Media Group and sleep well at night, and look yourself in the eye in the morning, well, then, bully for you, I guess.

    Atrox: The strike against HuffPo, as you might recall, was initially called by the membership of Visual Art Source, whose 50 members had been (unpaid) contributors to HuffPo prior to the sale. It was backed up by the 26,000 member Newspaper Guild. From a 3/17 piece on The Daily Caller: “Just as we would ask writers to stand fast and not cross a physical picket line, we ask that they honor this electronic picket line” Link: (http://dailycaller.com/2011/03/17/newspaper-guild-huffington-post-strike/#ixzz1JGp9KkDZ)

    A “scab” is a person who works in spite of strike action. So yes, if you are a writer working for a company when a writers’ strike is taking place, you are by definition a scab. Not sure what’s hard to understand about that. Had any of the Cinematical writers I know personally accepted an offer from AOL to stick around, then yes, so far as I am concerned they would have been betraying Peter and Scott and especially Erik Davis, who himself turned down a full-time offer on principle because he was not going to benefit himself while his writers lost their gigs. Again, not that difficult to understand — the Cinematical writers (all of them, so far as I know) resigned shortly after Erik Davis did.

    Do I think the Moviefone writers still there betray Patricia Chui as a friend and colleague by not saying “screw you” to AOL and departing en masse in protest of how she was fired? Yup. I understand the financial realities that might prevent them from supporting her in that way, though, and perhaps it’s idealistic and naive to wish for that kind of loyalty to exist at all. But I also believe that if Erik Davis had been fired in that manner, every Cinematical writer would have resigned in support of him.

    Do I think the people still working for AOL/HuffPo/Huffington Media Group are “selling their souls to the devil?”

    Well, gosh, you got me there! Of course I don’t think there is a literal devil (in the generally accepted Christian use of the term) sitting at a desk somewhere in Dulles, surrounded by chortling demons, literally having people sign contracts with Hell in which their souls will burn for eternity. Are you being deliberately obtuse?

    Do I think that working for AOL at this point is figuratively selling one’s soul, by which I mean the selling out a higher moral value for the sake of some gain, financial or otherwise? Yes, I do. You are free to disagree on that point.

    Clear enough?

    P.S. For even more hyperbole to pick apart, go read ex-Cinematical writer Eric D. Snider’s hilarious take (here’s the link: http://www.ericdsnider.com/snide/leaving-in-a-huff/), wherein he writes, in part:

    “(Did you know that when she had her first meetings with the AOL staff, she brought them Greek cookies and regaled them with amusing personal anecdotes?? It’s true! Then she taught them traditional Greek folk songs! Then they all danced a tsamiko, drank ouzo, and ate gyros and baklava! Then Huffington emitted a bone-chilling shriek, unhinged her jaw, threw over the conference room table, and devoured everyone present.).”

    I’m pretty sure Eric doesn’t think Arianna LITERALLY unhinged her jaw and devoured everyone present, but you might want to grill him on that, too, just to be on the safe side.

  15. Someone Special says:

    “No, I did not speak with anyone who is, at this precise moment, still working for Moviefone.”

    Why didn’t you?

    Here’s my opinion: if you want someone to quit their job in protest, you should ask them yourself, quietly and privately. You shouldn’t call them out like this in public. You certainly shouldn’t call them names.

    Do you want to convince these people to help you, or do you want to just look like a big shot on the internet?

    Let’s say they all quit, right now, in protest. Here’s what’d happen:

    1) The Moviefone website would go dark for, at most, six hours. The Huffington Post staffer assigned to fix things would patch the hole with aggregated content until they hired a new full-time staffer or two.

    2) Small blogs like yours, the WSJ blog, the Wired blog, etc, would run a story about the walkout. Such stories would be filled with positive, sympathetic comments.

    And that’s it, that’s literally all that would happen. It wouldn’t even be a full-day story, it’d be a two hour round of blog-posts before the entertainment media moved onto whatever Scarlett Johansen wore to lunch that day.

    That’s the problem with your plan – you don’t have one. Do you want to hurt Arianna Huffington, who I agree, is ruining paid writing? Great! This isn’t the way to do it. She won’t be hurt through a walkout by a handful of people she was going to fire in a few weeks anyway.

    It’s called “organizing” because it requires some level of organization. Not a blog post filled with, in your word, “hyperbole.” You gotta get everyone on the same page, and the way to do that isn’t by insulting them on the internet.

    When union organizers call on people to quit, they at least have the courtesy to find out whether or not they’ll end up homeless. You didn’t do that! Why?

  16. Kim Voynar says:

    Someone Special, I hear what you’re saying. But I’m not a union organizer. I’m a writer. If someone else who is a union organizer wants to do that job awesome. All for it. And I agree, protesting against anything takes a lot of work for very little likelihood of seeing any immediate pertinent change. Doesn’t mean we should quit writing about it and talking about it, nor giving traffic to a company that treats people as AOL has. So thanks for the discourse.

  17. Atrox_B says:

    You’re not a union organizer? Ok. But you’re calling on people to quit their jobs in protest, and calling those who don’t “scabs?” Excuse me for thinking those are the kinds of things a union organizer would say.

    You keep bringing up the fact that you’re “writing about it and talking about it” and that you’re against “giving traffic” to HuffOL. Do you hear anybody arguing with those things? Of course we should write and talk about it, and of course nobody should give HuffOL sites traffic. That’s not the issue.

    But you did more than that – you called people who didn’t quit their jobs scabs, betrayers, and soulless (because, after selling their souls to the devil, they’d lack a soul and therefore be soulless). You insulted and denigrated them.

    You know who has the right to call people names? People in the fight. You know who doesn’t? Everyone else. You can disagree with their choice, but at least do so respectfully. You have no idea of their situations, which I can confirm, because you “did not speak with anyone who is, at this precise moment, still working for Moviefone.”

    If you’d written a post akin to, “Dear Moviefone staff, I think you should all quit in protest of Patricia’s firing, it may be hard but it’s the right thing to do, take some time and think about it, consult with your families, make the decision that’s right for you but I’d like you to consider quitting and going public with your walkout,” that’d be a perfectly acceptable thing to write.

    You didn’t write that though, you threw a bunch of bombs at a bunch of freelancers. You called them scabs which, in writing, is one of the deepest insults possible.

    You say “if you’re a WGA member and you break strike, there are real consequences for that choice.”

    Really? How many people were sanctioned for strikebreaking during the 07/08 WGA strike? I’ll save you the Google search – 3. Out of the 12,000+ members of the WGAe & WGAw. Not even Jay Leno was sanctioned, and he did 20 minutes of pre-written material every night on TV for months. So what consequences are you talking about?

    Mentioning the WGA in this situation is cheap because when the WGA struck, it was members of the same organized body acting. Unpaid Visual Art Source bloggers are calling on minimally paid Moviefone freelancers to quit – that’s two entirely different groups. Additionally, the WGA strike involved consensus building. People took a vote, Patric Verrone didn’t just post “hyperbole” on the WGA blog then throw stones at people who didn’t follow his call.

    But you bringing the WGA into this will actually help me illustrate something important – this isn’t like the strike, this is a lot more like the campaign to organize Tyler Perry’s House of Payne.

    Four writers working for that show got fed up with a very rich person treating them like shit, so they struck and they organized. Do you know what happened to them? I’ll save you the Google search – they were all fired. The show eventually became a guild operation, but the four who struck weren’t re-hired as part of the deal.

    And that’s what you’re asking these people at Moviefone to do – to give up their jobs with no hope of return, and to gain nothing. At least in the House of Payne action, there was a concrete, positive benefit – another organized show. If the skeleton freelance staff at Moviefone quit, they’ll be out a job, HuffOL won’t be hurt, and nothing will change.

    These insults you’ve thrown at your fellow writers? They’re a big deal. But you can fix this – you can apologize to them for calling them names without at least trying to investigate their situation. You can take this blog post down, or edit it so it’s less inflammatory. You can make amends, and maybe you can all work together, harmoniously, towards a common goal – a world where writers are paid a fair wage.

    As a final note, you mentioned that you and your family lost your husband’s work-provided health insurance. Obviously this is terrible, and I’m incredibly sorry to hear it. You may be able to continue to receive the exact same coverage you got under his work plan through a program called COBRA, or failing that, Cal-COBRA (if you live in CA). It’s expensive but it insures continuation of coverage. You only have 30-60 days to avail yourself of that program, so I would suggest he contacts his ex-employers HR department ASAP for more information. Additionally: http://www.dol.gov/dol/topic/health-plans/cobra.htm

    If for some reason you can’t get COBRA or Cal-COBRA and you live in CA, you may be able to enroll in either MRMIP or PCIP. PCIP is a much better program, but it’s hard to get on. http://pcip.ca.gov/Home/default.aspx – if you live outside of CA, your state may have a program for the uninsurable set up through the recent Obama healthcare plan.

    Good night, and I wish you well,
    Atrox

  18. “I’m pretty sure Eric doesn’t think Arianna LITERALLY unhinged her jaw and devoured everyone present, but you might want to grill him on that, too, just to be on the safe side.”

    No, I actually do think that. From what I hear it was pretty gruesome.

Quote Unquotesee all »

“Well, actually, of that whole group that I call the post-60s anti-authority auteurs, a lot of them came from television. Peckinpah’s the only one whose television work represents his feature work. I mean, like the only one. Mark Rydell can direct a really good episode of ‘Gunsmoke’ and Michael Ritchie can direct a really good episode of ‘The Big Valley,’ but they don’t necessarily look like The Candidate. But Peckinpah’s stuff, even the scripts he wrote that he didn’t even direct, have a Peckinpah feel – the way I think there’s a Corbucci West – suggest a Peckinpah West. That even in his random episodes that he wrote for ‘Gunsmoke’ – it’s right there.”
~ Quentin Tarantino

“The thought is interrupted by an odd interlude. We are speaking in the side room of Casita, a swish and fairly busy Italian bistro in Aoyama – a district of Tokyo usually so replete with celebrities that they spark minimal fuss. Kojima’s fame, however, exceeds normal limits and adoring staff have worked out who their guest is. He stops mid-sentence and points up towards the speakers, delighted. The soft jazz that had been playing discreetly across the restaurant’s dark, hardwood interior has suddenly been replaced with the theme music from some of Kojima’s hit games. Harry Gregson-Williams’ music is sublime in its context but ‘Metal Gear Solid 4: Guns of the Patriots’ is not, Kojima acknowledges, terribly restauranty. He pauses, adjusting a pair of large, blue-framed glasses of his own design, and returns to the way in which games have not only influenced films, but have also changed the way in which people watch them. “There are stories being told [in cinema] that my generation may find surprising but which the gamer generation doesn’t find weird at all,” he says.
~ Hideo Kojima