The elite media have failed, according to prominent political commentator Arianna Huffington, and it’s up to blogs to correct them.
Huffington — who identified Revolutionary War pamphleteer Thomas Paine as the first blogger — argued her point before about 200 students at a Yale Political Union debate Wednesday night.
She used her address to speak in favor of the resolution “Blogs are Good for Democracy.”
Like Paine, Huffington said, bloggers “challenge the conventional wisdom.”
Traditional news organizations have lost credibility because they have become too close to their sources, said Huffington, founder of the blog The Huffington Post. Journalists like Bob Woodward ’65, the authority-challenging reporter who broke the Watergate scandal, have lost their edge and now care more for keeping sources than for reporting the full, unbiased truth, she said.
“They are the dumb blondes of journalism,” Huffington said. “They let unparalleled access interfere with journalistic integrity.”
They also don’t have much of an attention span, Huffington said. The conventional media will report a headline but will not follow through with in-depth coverage, she said.
“Many great stories die on the front pages of the national papers,” she said. “Blogs pick up the slack. Unless you stay and stay and stay and stay on a story nothing happens.”
Because of its tenacity, “blogging is here to stay,” Huffington said. Even so, she said, she does not think the traditional press will disappear.
“We are moving towards a hybrid future,” Huffington said, referring to a time when print, broadcast and online media are combined.
On the subject of her own media empire, Huffington said she tries to “bring fairness, accuracy and civility into the blogosphere.” Posts and comments on her blog are monitored for content, but a message is allowed to enter the discussion thread regardless of the position it advocates as long as it is in the spirit of debate, she said — comments that are dirty or ill-meant are the only ones discarded.
Given their accessibility and flexibility, blogs are also democratic, Huffington said.
“It makes it possible for those who do not have a voice to have a voice,” she said.
Students interviewed after Huffington’s remarks said her views on the media were poignant, although not all agreed with her characterization of the blogosphere.
“It was a really interesting point raised about meritocracy — that you have to be a good blogger to be read,” Hamp Watson ’12 said. “I agree and think it is a meritocracy, but it is good for democracy even if it itself is not democratic.”
Joe Bolognese ’12, a self-described avid reader of The Huffington Post, agreed with Huffington’s view of the future balance between conventional media outlets and blogs.
“She laid a really solid argument that blogs aren’t meant to replace, but to complement the traditional media,” Bolognese said.
Huffington won the debate: The resolution passed, 33-22.