She is Cambridge-educated, an author, journalist and blogger named by Forbes as one of the most dozen influential women in media (that was in 2009; her ranking likely is even higher today), a go-to pundit on the national political stage, a radio host and co-founder, president and editor-and-chief of the The Huffington Post,
Arianna Huffington is a trailblazer leaving a trail of success wherever she goes. Earlier this year, AOL
announced it had acquired The Huffington Post
for $315 million and made Huffington president and editor in chief of The Huffington Post Media Group, which includes The Huffington Post
and already existing AOL properties Engadget
, AOL Music
, Patch Media
Last month, the group launched HuffPost Detroit
. We walked around Corktown near the pub's local offices and talked with Detroit born and bred editor Simone Landon Simone Landon
. Now, after a two week (or was it three?) chase across the interwebs, we got a chance to talk to Arianna. It was worth the pursuit.
Huffington Post launched in 2005. That seems an eternity in new media time and space. How has media changed in six years?
Since 2005, the Internet has come out of its adolescent stage and is growing up into a place where our online and our offline lives are merging. A place where the qualities we care most about offline -- connection, engagement, authenticity -- are increasingly reflected in our experience online. We are seeing new media grow into a uniquely powerful tool enabling unprecedented engagement and community, from Tahrir Square to the streets of Europe to the growing network of Occupy protests across the US.
Of course, there's still a lot more maturing to be done. See: Balloon Boy
What did Huffington Post do to help change it?
The whole idea of The Huffington Post from the start was to take the sort of conversations found at water coolers and around dinner tables -- about politics and art and books and food and sex -- and open them up and bring them online, so everybody could participate. In that way, I hope we've been a part of bringing the offline world to the online platform. The news is much more of a two-way street now -- it's not a passive activity, it's active, and we've tried to amplify and deepen that transition. And one of the things I most love about The Huffington Post is our policy of covering a story as long as we think it's important. The online media can take a worthy-but-passed-over story and, by refusing to let it go, push it back into the national conversation.
How much of Huffington Post consists of reporting, blogging and aggregating news? It seems like a pretty even mix these days.
We are both a journalistic enterprise -- with more than 1,300 professional journalists on the payroll -- and a blogging platform that, together with our parent company AOL, receives more than 250 million unique views around the world. Since our merger with AOL in February, we've launched more than 20 sections, including two international editions. And I've always said that even if I had an unlimited budget to produce unlimited original content, I would still aggregate, because there is great content being produced around the world, and our goal at HuffPost is to guide our readers to the best content anywhere.
Those of us who spend most of our time dialed into Detroit find it endlessly fascinating. How does the outside world view us now?
Unfortunately, the outside world is likely to view Detroit through the prism of the national media's knee-jerk narrative about the city, largely because that's all most outsiders have been offered. We've seen it over and over again: a reporter helicopters in, reconfirms the conventional wisdom, and then heads out of town. That limited, unimaginative approach was a major driving force behind the launch of HuffPost Detroit in November. We hope the section will be of interest not just to those who live in and around Detroit, but to anyone interested in this great American city.
What can we expect to see in terms of style and substance on the Detroit site?
Under the leadership of our editor Simone Landon, an enthusiastic native Detroiter, HuffPost Detroit will be covering both sides of the city's split screen. On one side: the cripplingly high unemployment, the decaying infrastructure, and the struggling schools. On the other side: the entrepreneurs, the inspiring number of young people moving in to the city, and the unsung innovators who are remaking Detroit for the 21st century. In all cases, we'll be putting flesh and blood on the statistics, telling the stories of the people who make the Motor City what it is.
Walter Wasacz is managing editor of Model D. He is always in pursuit of good stories.