Should HuffPo Also Crowdfund Its 'Nip Slip' Coverage?

Arianna Huffington's Content Farm Is Asking Readers to Pay for a 'Citizen Journalist'

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Last night The Huffington Post sent out a press release with the highfalutin title "The Huffington Post Is Not Leaving Ferguson." It contained the text of a article by Ryan Grim, HuffPo's Washington bureau chief, that begins:

"What happens in Ferguson and the St. Louis metro area the day after everybody leaves? It's a question on the minds of nearly every resident, who know the camera crews will eventually fold up their sticks and pack up their vans .... We plan to be there as it all unfolds. For The Huffington Post, this'll involve a first-of-its-kind collaboration with readers, the local community and the Beacon Reader to create what we're calling the Ferguson Fellowship."

Sounds good, right? Then there's the next sentence:

"With reader support, we'll hire a local citizen journalist who's been covering the turmoil and train her to become a professional journalist ... "

Uh, what?

Yes, AOL's HuffPo is raising funds to allow one Mariah Stewart to continue what she's already been doing as a "citizen journalist." With your support, Grim continues, Stewart will be able to "work directly with HuffPost's criminal justice reporter Ryan Reilly to cover the ongoing story of Ferguson, tracking the federal investigation into the killing of Michael Brown and reporting on the empaneled grand jury. She'll monitor the activity of the local and county police forces once the national spotlight dims, and will learn the intricacies of public records requests in an effort to divine the funding sources and uses of military gear in the county."

So, you see, HuffPo is actually going to be leaving Ferguson after all -- despite that headline -- but it wants you to pony up so local resident Stewart can create content for HuffPo.

There's a link in the post to a fundraising page on the website of the Beacon Reader, a journalism crowdfunding site. As of this writing, 12% of the $40,000 goal has been raised; the fundraising deadline is Sept. 10.

If there's any doubt that this money is meant to support HuffPo's content farm, there's this line in big type: "At $40,000 The Huffington Post can provide sustainable reporting you won't get anywhere else."

This reminds me of that scene in "Tom Sawyer" where Aunt Polly made Tom paint a fence, but Tom didn't really want to do it, so he launched a Kickstarter to train and employ citizen fence-painters to do it for him. (Mark Twain anticipated everything.)

Media blogger Jim Romenesko noticed some outrage being expressed on Twitter by journalists, including this from James Ball, a special projects editor at The Guardian:

To Ball and other naysayers, I say, pish posh! Really, I think this is just the beginning. In fact, I look forward to HuffPo crowdfunding some of its other essential journalism.

Readers, won't you make a donation today to support HuffPo's nip-slip coverage? If you've ever gone to HuffPo's Wardrobe Malfunctions department page -- where, this morning, you can find headlines like "NSFW PHOTOS: Model Has Nip Slip On 'Arbitrage' Red Carpet" and "Maria Menounos On Her 'Bikini Malfunction': 'Oh No, My Vagina's Out'" -- then you owe it to HuffPo to cough up some cash, you cheapskate pervert.

Simon Dumenco is the "Media Guy" media columnist for Advertising Age. Follow him on Twitter @simondumenco.

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