AP / Earl Gibson III Arianna Huffington appears as a panelist for Tavis Smiley's "America's Next Chapter" in Washington, D.C., last month.
In defense of Arianna Huffington. Not that the lady needs one, having been a leader in undermining the right-wing dominance of Internet reporting. Defenders of a free press should be thrilled that it is Huffington who is now merging with AOL rather than Matt Drudge, the unrivaled leader of Internet news whom I first met at Arianna's home when she was cozier with the right.
But a defense is salutary now because too many progressives, including Chris Hedges on Truthdig, whom I edit, have made Huffington a symbol of the crisis in American journalism. While I still believe that Hedges is the finest journalist working in this country today and have no intention of ever censoring him, I do believe that he and the other critics of Huffington have missed the point.
First off, and in defense of the use of unpaid bloggers, of which I happen to be one among the many who appear on a regular basis on the website The Huffington Post, we are not exploited. Blogging has opened up the traditional channels of reporting to include informed people with scholarly and experiential credibility who formerly were begging for the rare opportunity to appear on the carefully preserved Op-Ed plantation of leading newspapers. For most contributors, the Op-Ed page was never a serious source of income.
I occupied a privileged, if modestly paid, weekly place at the Los Angeles Times plantation for 13 years until a publisher upset with my views on the Iraq War and media concentration summarily ended it. The greed that telecommunication deregulation unleashed within the Times' parent corporation, Tribune, eventually landed the newspaper in bankruptcy, but that is another story. Arianna picked up my column the instant it appeared with the launch of Truthdig and has prominently displayed it on The Huffington Post for more than five years, even when she told me she disagreed with what I wrote.