Watching what’s happening to The Huffington Post lately is like looking at a car wreck. It’s disappointing, saddening and possibly revolting, but you still can’t help but look.
Only what is going on at HuffPo’s offices these days could be more accurately described as a train wreck than a mere auto collision.
Started in 2005 by Arianna Huffington, and a few pals, HuffPo quickly rose to fame, not because of any journalistic skill, but because of their combined contacts. Face it, if one of the Kardashian girls is a friend of yours, her contribution to your blog will send it into the stratosphere…until the world figures out that your blog is nothing but smoke-and-mirrors.
That is what is happening now to The Huffington Post. Once a semi-respected news aggregate — think Drudge report — HuffPo is now little more than an electronic version of National Inquirer, tabloid journalism that panders the sensational instead of good, solid news and writing.
Compounding the problem is a business full of twenty-something — usually female — staffers who have been given the title “Editor”. Unlike editors in real world journalism, the HuffPo editors are under-trained and unprofessionals who have been tricked into believingg the title they’re given actually means something. Like the flagman at a highway construction sight, they have plenty of imagined authority and little responsibility in a job that doesn’t require any brains to perform.
Tabloid journalism and unprofessinal editors have combined to cost HuffPo roughtly 50% of it’s readers during the past twelve months.
It’s a shame to see the wreckage of what could have been a great thing falling and crumbling into ashes.
Editors Felt that bin Laden’s Death Wasn’t “Newsworthy”
Driving the overall exodus of qualified and talented writers is the lackidasical, unprofessional behavior on the part of it’s ‘editors’.
Many former HuffPo writers left the HP stable for other outlets saying, “they [the editors] treat their bloggers like idiots and make it so much more difficult than it’s worth to participate in their system”.
Consisting of ‘twenty-something’ individuals whose sole authority for their postiion is having managed to scrape by in a liberal arts school and graduate with a piece of paper telling them they were ready for the world, the editorial group should be more professional and knowledgeable considering the once-vaunted status of the publication for which they work.
Reality though is different. Given authority which surpasses their wisdom, these pretenders are frustrating professional writers of all skill levels and are making decisions that are far beyond their maturity, ability and talent.
As they’ve taken HuffPo down the tabloid trail, items of legitimate news interest goes wanting.
Editors at HuffPo are notorious for failing to answer emails. One main complaint of former writers is the silence received when a question is asked. One writer said trying to contact an editor, “…was like trying to reach the Wizard of Oz behind the curtain. In fact, I think this is the problem. Behind the curtain of the Huffington Post, there’s a little bald man (or woman) who keeps trying to pretend they are the “Great and Powerful Oz”!
Many writers complained of HuffPo editors making changes to submissions without any input from the writer. The changes discussed were not merely isolated word changes but the wholesale morphing of entire sentences and paragraphs which completely reversed the author’s original intention. Editors at HuffPo also often fail to advise writers of revisions, acknowledge receipt of submissions and often drop items completely without any explanation given.
Jerry Nelson is an internationally known freelance photojournalist who used to contribute to The Huffington Post. He quit when he realized the editors couldn’t pour piss out of a boot if the directions were written on the heel.
One writer, who had appeared on BBC World News Television along with US Congressman Silvestre Reyes and British MP Khalid Mahmood, to discuss the killing of bin Laden saw his story about the killing dropped by HuffPo editors without explanation. Only after multiple emails over several weeks did he receive a reply. “Not newsworthy,” was the terse, two-word explanation given.
What is The HuffPo?
The Huffington Post is not a creator of original news content like the New York Times or Washington Post. It is a blog that primarily does 2 things: (1) Aggregate and link to stories from other news sources (e.g. AP, NY TImes, etc), similar to what Drudge Report does (2) Have guest bloggers post opinion pieces on topical subjects.
Like the Drudge Report or Breitbart on the right, the Huffington post has an overt, liberal political leaning which influences which stories they highlight, which guest bloggers they invite and how they write their headlines.
As long as you understand the biases of the service, all of these may be good ways to find stories you might have otherwise missed.
But you’d better look quick as dwindling readership may force AOL to shut down the HuffPo.
Numbers Sinking Faster Than the Titanic
That flushing sound you hear are HuffPo’s market share going down the toilet.
It’s no secret that HuffPo’s traffic is plummeting. Page views, a key measurement in a website’s value is disappearing. Quantcast, an online service that provides readership demographics, reports that traffic has dropped from 600 million a month last summer to roughly 350 million today.
The sinking numbers come at a time when the quality of the content has gone down significantly. What used to be seen as revolutionary and fresh news delivery now seems tired, sensationalist and desperate.
The change in quality content may be caused by the number of talented people which have completely left the organization, again, mainly over issues with the ‘editors’. With management becoming lethargic and unfocused, HuffPo now represents the establishment viewpoint — often silencing popular grievances.
Their bread and butter now is low information tabloid-type stories which often veer into nonsensical trivia.
A former writer for HuffPo, who asked to remain anonymous, said, “One cannot be totally sure of what happened, but the lack of passion, drive, and resolve has certainly affected their ability to execute on what was once a promising online destination”.
Huffington Post Blows Off Renowned Author
Donna Flagg, a noted author whose work has been featured in the New York Times, Newsday and others also gave up writing anything for HuffPo.
Flagg, a workplace communications expert and author of Surviving Dreaded Conversations has been a guest on The Big Idea with Donny Deutsch, NPR with Patt Marrison, XM Radio with Lisa Belkin and WOR with Lisa Belkin, hasn’t been treated as a professional by the editors either.
Flagg, who runs a consulting company, The Krysalis Group, whose clients include Goldman Sachs, Merrill Lynch, Citi, Chanel, and Barneys New York, says she stopped writing for Huff Po for several reasons.
“1. They never respond. I have gone months, emailing them weekly, bi-weekly and they just ignore it.
2. If they decline to publish a post, they don’t tell you. And when you find out and then ask for feedback as to why (so you can avoid investing time in energy in writing things that are going to get bounced) they ignore that too.
3. If you want to make a change to a post, (after you submit) and I mean something as small as adding or removing a comma, you can’t do it yourself. You have to submit a request. And guess what? Good luck getting a response. Even my bio, I couldn’t change without it going to them for “approval.” I then had to ask and ask because they didn’t actually make the change nor did they respond. It’s ridiculous.
4. Oh, and when I requested that they take down my profile, they said, “Absolutely not.” When I asked if that was legal, guess what? No response there either.”
Flagg, who also writes for Psychology Today, says her experience with PT is the “exact opposite”. They (PT) have respect for writers and “…are fair, responsive and professional”.
What does the future hold for the once mighty Huffington Post?
Great things are in store if, and that’s a big IF, they fire their current crop of editors who are a bunch of little snits, fresh and arrogant with zero business decorum or understanding and secondly get back into the real work of journalism.
Hopefully they will be able to reinvent themselves. HuffPo is overdue for a bit of transformation and refocusing!
Repeated attempts to get a response from someone, anyone at Huffington Post were unsuccessful. It sounds kind of typical.
- Huffington Post Logic: They Don’t Pay Bloggers, But They Are In Favor of a $10.10 Minimum Wage (economicpolicyjournal.com)
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- Left Attacks Rep. Steve King for Eating ‘Sustainable’ Reindeer (breitbart.com)
- Simon Dumenco: Thanks for the apology, HuffPo, but how about one more? (nextlevelofnews.com)
- HuffPo’s Stein: Obamacare ‘Very Much a Redistributionist Law’ (nationalreview.com)