If you listen to the blabbers and gossipers, the Huffington Post is the talk of the town. It is claimed that Arianna Huffington’s “success” is the “new journalism,” the future of the news. TechNewsWorld proclaimed it “appropriate” that Huffington appeared in the YouTube series on journalism apparently because she personifies it. The New York Times celebrated HuffPo as “hybrid journalism” for its Iran coverage. Jeff Jarvis of The Guardian claims that Arianna is “saving journalism.” She was even just awarded the Fred Dressler Lifetime Achievement Award in journalism from Syracuse University. She even testified before a Congressional committee on journalism. And the list of accolades goes on.
But, what sort of “journalism” does Huffington Post represent? Is it the well researched sort with multiple links, named sources, or other such common journalistic practices? Most often no. In fact, those that write for Huffington Post rarely even bother with the normal journalistic practices of research, attribution, or the habit of having more than one source. Sadly, the largest bulk of what Huffington writers do is merely opine whether they have sourced information or not. And more often than not they do so from the extreme left-wing perspective.
Huffington Post is not “journalism.” It’s really just that simple.
Arianna has set no standards, exacted no homage to journalistic practices, and requires no veracity. She just wants pages filled and advertising to flow. Perhaps she is successful at that goal, but what is this success doing to journalism? I’d suggest it is hurting it, not “saving it,” as Mr. Jarvis claimed.
Examples of the emptiness of Huffington Posts entries are legion and can be found any time one goes to the site.
Recently, for instance, a debate between an actual medical technician and a HuffPo pseudo doctor erupted. Posts by what is billed as Huffington Post’s “wellness editor,” Dr. Patricia Fitzgerald, raised the ire of some readers. It turns out that Miss. Fitzgerald is not really a “doctor” of much of anything and medical internist Peter Lipson called her on it earlier this year. Despite the embarrassment, Fitzgerald is still billed as the HuffPo “welness editor” and still calling herself “doctor.” Lipson points out that several HuffPo “doctors” are either not real doctors or are doctors of fields apart from the subjects they write about on HuffPo. He says it is a bit hard to take their posts seriously because of this.
Then there is the political news that appears every day on HuffPo. For example, a straight out opinion was recently presented as fact by HuffPo writer Jennifer Donahue whose piece makes the claim that the Republican grassroots is lining up behind Mitt Romney, forsaking Sarah Palin, for the 2012 presidential election.
Donahue says it’s Mitt rising in the GOP and has two quotes in the story to support her assertion. However, there are no names attached to the quotes and no sources for them is given. She has no pundits from the right pointing to Mitt, no party members saying they like him and no seated politicians raising Mitt’s banner. She just says it is so and we are supposed to take it on faith. The whole story is thin as tissue paper. It may be true, but we get nothing to make us sanguine of the fact in Donahue’s story. Just her assertions.
Yet, Donahue is billed as the “Political Director of the New Hampshire Institute of Politics” and sports a journalism background. She may do a fine job for Saint Anselem College, but for HuffPo, at least, this piece is junk.
Or perhaps we might address a post by Stephen Zunes on Ahmadinejad and Iran. Zunes, who claims to hold the “chair of the Mid-Eastern Studies program at the University of San Francisco,” made a bald-faced assertion in his headlined, “Why American Neo-Cons wanted Ahmadinejad to Win.”
Zunes starts his blather with this line: “The only people happier than the Iranian elites over Mahmoud Ahmadinejad’s apparently stolen election win Friday, were the neoconservatives…”
This is a pretty startling and pointed accusation. After all, Zunes is saying that a faction of America’s conservatives want a Jew hating, tyrant to win an election. Zunes follows this initial accusation with a lengthy piece on the situation in Iran yet offers not one single quote from any supposed “neo-con” to prove his thesis. No links to “neo-con” think tank papers are featured, no news stories, interviews or TV presentations included. No books or articles are quoted. Astonishingly no proof at all is offered for his wild-eyed claim. He just says it’s so and moves forward with that assumption.
Huffington Post also offers “celebrity news” even as it pretends at being a serious site presenting the important “news” of the day. We get things like the screen shot to the right that I recently saved. Notice that a photo of president Obama is included in with the salacious, sexually charged photos of barely clothed “celebrities” with the caption, “Better wetter? Who’s hotter when soaking wet?” Is this the way to treat a president? Is this the sort of mentality that befits serious journalism?
Look, I have no problem at all with HuffPo being a left-wing opinion site. How could I be? All my work appears on right-wing opinion sites. But, what I do IS opinion and I make no claims otherwise. Sure I’ve covered live, actual events, interviewed people in the news, appeared on CNN and Fox, been heard on numerous radio shows from coast to coast both local and nationally syndicated. But even as some of what I do is news and journalism, I only claim to be a columnist, opinionist, a talking head if you will. That is my primary purpose. And Huffington Post is nothing else but an opinion site, not journalism.
Granted there are plenty of folks out there criticizing Huffington Post and scoffing at its journalistic presumptions. It comes from the left and the right, from journalists and bloggers alike. I am not saying that Huffington is universally presented as “saving journalism.” Conversely, I am not saying that the site has no place on the web, nor am I saying it isn’t successful per se. What I am saying is that thus far Arianna Huffington’s site is decidedly not journalism. It is a successful blog, a fine site for left-wing talking points, sure. But it is not in any way a site built on journalism nor should it be taken as such.
The sad thing is, too many people don’t understand this salient truth.