Journalist Q&A: Arianna Huffington, The Huffington Post

In 2005, Arianna Huffington started The Huffington Post, a national blog on politics, media, and culture. It has since spawned local editions in Denver, New York, and Chicago.

Name: Arianna Huffington
Title: Cofounder and editor-in-chief
Outlet: The Huffington Post
Preferred e-mail address: Arianna@HuffingtonPost.com
Web site: HuffingtonPost.com

In 2005, Arianna Huffington started The Huffington Post, a national blog on politics, media, and culture. It has since spawned local editions in Denver, New York, and Chicago. She spoke to Kimberly Maul about future plans and why there's no distinction between old and new media.

What topics or issues are your personal favorites to cover?

Huffington: I write three times a week. I write a lot on the economic crisis and the need to put what's happening in the real economy on the front burner and do more to affect people's real lives, especially in terms of jobs and foreclosures. There is not enough attention being paid there.

What issues would you like the site to cover more in the future?

Huffington: I'd like to see it continue to cover the most important stories of the day. So we'll be giving a lot of attention to the destructive role of lobbyists and money on our politics, the consequences of our misguided escalation of the war in Afghanistan, the lack of transparency in the way the bank bailout has been handled, and the gaming of the system by entrenched special interests. We will also continue to cover the growing toll of the economic crisis, putting a human face on the statistics.

How do you see the site evolving in 2010? What goals do you have?

Huffington: My goal for 2010 is the same as it's been from the beginning: to play a part in influencing conversation nationally. To accomplish this, we will continue to grow and expand. That means more original reporting, more bloggers, more video, more ways for our community to engage with the site - including making it easier for users to comment, share stories, and contribute pictures, videos, and stories.

We've always been willing to experiment with new tools, technologies, and ways of telling a story. That won't change. It's a part of our DNA.

I also think we'll keep growing. We have a great response from the public and we've introduced a lot of social media in relation to Facebook and Twitter. We have a very engaged community. That's one of the things we love about the response.

How do you see the news media and blogs evolving in the future? Will it be more about localized content?

Huffington: It's going to be everything. The distinction between old and new media is becoming obsolete. We see all media having very significant investments in online media, in the blogs and what they are doing online. So I don't think the distinction is really significant. We're doing more reporting; they're doing more blogging and social media.

You've publicly disagreed with Rupert Murdoch's views on news aggregator web sites and keeping content on Google. Why do you disagree? Why do you think they're both good for the media?

Huffington: I don't disagree in terms of what they do. I think they can do whatever they want and they could do it in five seconds by disallowing the content from being searchable to Google. I think there is a lot of grandstanding and if they are serious about it, they would have done something.

For us, The Huffington Post, and where I see the future of media going, I believe consumer habits have changed [so much] that when you offer general news and opinion, as opposed to very specialized financial content or other specialized content, then I think it should be free and either ad-supported or, in the case of investigative journalism, supported through foundations or individuals in a nonprofit way.

How would you advise companies that want to charge for their content?

Huffington: I did a speech saying that free content is not without problems. But it's here to stay. Publishers must come to terms with that and figure out how to make it work for them. I just feel that it is really trying to go back to the past and I don't see that working.

With a lot of opinion on your site, do you find that PR pros reach out to offer rebuttals or do they not reach out as much?

Huffington: We absolutely get a lot of response from PR pros. I think a lot of them are recognizing that it is more effective now to blog about something, to have the principals blog about something, rather than send press releases. The world of the press release is dramatically changing.

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