Though the 59-year-old Arianna Huffington carries a Blackberry and Tweets like any child of the information age would, she said she remains an avid reader of the morning newspaper.
“The need to go through the newspaper at breakfast time is part of our DNA,” Huffington told a small crowd at the Law School today. “I subscribe to seven newspapers.”
After being introduced by Yale Law School Dean Robert Post, Huffington — an author, commentator and co-founder of the popular news and blogging Web site The Huffington Post — gave a speech in the Law School auditorium Monday on the relationship between the First Amendment and the Internet. American citizens should be aware that freedom of the press applies as much to citizen journalism as it does to formal journalism, she said.
While Huffington said she thinks newspapers may survive in hybrid print-online form, the tenets of journalism will remain intact through the Web.
“The practice of journalism has become more and more shouldered by the Internet,” Huffington said.
Social media is important in creating news, Huffington said. During the June 2009 election protests in Iran, Huffington said, conventional news outlets were blocked by the Iranian government. But users of social media such as Twitter and Facebook told the rest of the world about what was happening, she said.
After the protests, she said, China “got that message very quickly.” The Chinese government removed access to social media during the July 2009 uprising in the western provinces, instead giving a tour of the affected area to prominent journalists.
“Access is often a major trap for journalists,” Huffington said. “In order to maintain access, they surrender their own freedom to identify the truth.” By contrast, she said, citizen journalists are more accurate by virtue of their numbers, particularly in countries with limited freedom of press.
Huffington, whose daughter Christina Huffington ’12 is a student reporter herself, said American citizen journalists must continue to pursue the truth in order to act as watchdogs of the government. While President Obama has promised more transparency, Huffington said in an interview after her speech, his administration “has had a rocky start” in maintaining openness, especially in health care negotiations and the financial bailouts.
“It’s becoming more apparent to them that there is a demand [for transparency] from the public,” Huffington said.
After Huffington spoke, she invited attendees up to the microphone for a question-and-answer session.
Christina Mulligan, a visiting fellow and a member of the Information Society Project, which organized the event, asked Huffington how the government should ensure freedom of speech.
“Money speaks,” Huffington responded. “If you have millions of dollars to spend, you are going to be heard more loudly. This is not about right versus left. This is across the political spectrum. That’s why transparency is so key.”
Susan Park ’12 asked Huffington how much transparency was too much. That point in time, Huffington answered, is “a long, long way from where we are now.”
Park said in an interview that she enjoyed the talk but wished Huffington had answered her question more in depth.
“I thought it was a very good talk,” Park said. “What she talked about is very important. In my opinion, America is one of the most open countries; I would have liked for her to have answered more clearly regarding the limits of transparency. Nevertheless, she set the tone for how journalism will be in the future.”
The event was hosted by two Law School initiatives: the Yale Information Society Project, which looks at the social impact of the Internet and new technology, and the Knight Law and Media Program, which studies the intersection between journalism and legal issues.
Huffington said that her Web site recently introduced a new section written by college students.