Latest update: 17/04/2012
- Internet - Journalism
Huffington Post Pulitzer draws criticism
Online blogging site The Huffington Post has been awarded a Pulitzer Prize for a series of articles on the treatment of injured American soldiers. Many question the site’s worthiness to receive journalism’s most prestigious award.
By Sébastian SEIBT (text)
Online journalism gained another layer of respectability Monday after online blogging site and news aggregator the Huffington Post was awarded a Pulitzer Prize for the best US national reporting.
It is only second time that a 100% online media organisation has been given journalism’s most prestigious award, after investigative journalism site ProRepublica in 2010.
Huffington Post reporter David Wood, a veteran military correspondent, was awarded his Pulitzer Prize for a series of articles cataloguing wounded soldiers' physical and emotional struggles, as well as how their families, communities, comrades and doctors responded.
“It's the culmination of what we started to build almost seven years ago,” said site founder Arianna Huffington whose organisation started out as a blog-hosting site in 2005. “It's a great affirmation that great journalism can thrive on the Web.”
Quality of journalism in doubt
The Huffington Post has come far – but many have questioned if its blog-hosting model can really compete with more traditional news organisations such as The New York Times, which won two Pulitzer Prizes this year.
When AOL CEO Tim Armstrong made a deal to buy The Huffington Post for $315 million in January 2011, he knew he was getting a big infusion of web traffic and social media savvy,” said Jeff Bercovici, new media specialist at Forbes Magazine. “What no one could have foreseen is that he was also buying a big chunk of prestige.”
The Huffington Post undeniably enjoys a massive presence on the web – with 35 million unique visitors per month (in October 2011, compared to 33 million for The New York Times in the same month).
But the quality of its journalism has long been in doubt.
“The Huffington Post [is] one of the smartest digital news machines ever and, at the same time, the mother of all news internet impostures,” wrote Frederic Filloux, founder of the French edition of daily newspaper 20 Minutes and head of specialist new media site Monday Note, in September 2010.
Like many other commentators at the time, Filloux was critical of The Huffington Post for being just an aggregator (a web machine that picks up and posts snippets of other peoples’ work) which “relies on high profile commentators, members of Arianna Huffington social and political circle, as well as on an armada of unpaid bloggers (6,000) edited by a commando of human cutters and pasters and condensers.”
‘Nuts to compare to NYT’
Even founder Arianna Huffington herself, when commenting on getting the Pulitzer Prize, acknowledged that the perception of The Huffington Post as an aggregator drew criticism from other outlets.
“It definitely does,” she said, while insisting that the site will remain “a platform” for distribution and aggregation.
Jacob Weisberg, founder of Slate, said he was astonished at The Huffinton Post’s Pulitzer. “I admire many things about Huffpo, but its original journalism still of minimal quality & value. Nuts to compare to NYT,” he wrote on Twitter on Tuesday.
The Huffington Post is also regularly criticised not paying the bloggers who provide original content to the site, and in January 2012 some 9,000 bloggers launched legal action in order to get a share of the 315 million dollars from the AOL deal.
The appeal was thrown out of court by judge John Koeltl who said “no one forced” the bloggers to repeatedly provide work with no expectation of being paid.