I've been growling all week at the stream of stories and blog posts dissecting the business angle to the AOL acquisition of the Huffington Post. As if that were all that mattered about this news. But one post by Jeff Jarvis, a journalism professor and new media maven, got me barking mad. Now I generally admire Jarvis and didn't so much mind his fawning assessment of the $315 million deal that will merge Huffington Post with AOL, and make Ariana Huffington the overseer of all AOL-HuffPo content. But he lost me here:
And let's not forget that HuffPo gets journalism. I remember a few years ago when Alan Rusbridger, editor-in-chief of the Guardian, goaded Arianna in a talk before his staff about why she'd possibly want such as them: reporters who cost a lot and are pains to work with. Because their stories get more traffic, Arianna replied. She understands the value of reporting.
No, Huffington understands the value of free labor, as Tim Rutten at the LA Times notes:
The bulk of the site's content is provided by commentators, who work for nothing other than the opportunity to champion causes or ideas to which they're devoted. Most of the rest of the content is "aggregated" "” which is to say stolen "” from the newspapers and television networks that pay journalists to gather and edit the news.
So let's not pretend that much actual reporting is being produced (or truly valued) by the Huffington Post. What is indisputable, as Phil Plait at Bad Astronomy points out (and echoed by some commenters at Jarvis' thread) is that Huffpo produces
nearly daily dangerous antivax and alt-med stuff.
For this reason, Orac, in his own take-no-prisoners style, is contemptuous of the deal ("AOL is buying that wretched hive of scum and quackery") and also wonders if the new mainstream platform portends that Arianna Huffington will soon
become the Oprah Winfrey of the "new media."
He didn't mean that as a compliment.