The HuffPost’s Business Reporting Shows the Site Maturing

Let’s get it out of the way up top that I think The Huffington Post is a mess—a schizophrenic, mostly unreadable hunk of tabloid journalism leavened with serious stuff.

I mean, where else can you read a droning missive on the BP oil spill by the Ecumenical Patriarch Bartholomew, helpfully identified as “Spiritual leader of 300 million Orthodox Christians worldwide,” on the same screen as “Lawrence Taylor RAPE Arrest: NFL Legend ARRESTED For Attacking Teenager” and “Elisabeth Hasselbeck SLAMS Erin Andrews’ Clothing, Excuses Stalker”?

Eyeballs JARRED. Reader GOOGLY-EYED After Reading HuffPo.

And I wouldn’t blame you if you hadn’t looked at the site in a year, and thought it was still just a mix of celebrity op-eds and tabloid junk.

But that’s a superficial (if understandable) read these days. In the space I cover, the business press, the site has been doing some serious reporting lately.

Zero in on Shahien Nasiripour’s work, which has quickly become a must-read for anyone covering the financial crisis or who’s just curious about it. Last month, I noted how his coverage of a congressional hearing far surpassed that of, ahem, more august outfits like The New York Times and The Washington Post:

The Huffington Post, the Times, and the Post were all at the same hearing, and only the HuffPo came out with the news.

That’s a single instance, but it was important news. The head of mortgage lending for Bank of America came out in support of cramdown, which would allow bankruptcy judges to lower the principal on underwater mortgages.

The other day, Nasiripour broke a story on a JPMorgan Chase top executive’s (the guy who co-wrote Dow 36,000! UPDATE: I was wrong there. See this Krugman post.) internal memo slamming Congress—in particular, Senator Carl Levin. He pointed out a revealing exchange in the Goldman Sachs hearings on Tim Geithner’s non-negotiation on the AIG backdoor bailout. I didn’t see that anywhere else.

And then there’s drumbeat coverage. Nasiripour wrote in early April that Kansas City Fed President Thomas Hoenig supported breaking up megabanks; he followed that up two weeks later with “Another Top Fed Official Calls For U.S. To Break Up Megabanks,” and then a few hours later noted a third Fed president doing the same.

Then there’s The Huffington Post Investigative Fund, which is run by business-press vet Keith Epstein and which has hired good business reporters like David Heath, who did important work on Washington Mutual for The Seattle Times. Here’s an excellent investigative piece Heath did on WaMu boiler room Long Beach Mortgage.

I get that reporting, and especially investigative reporting, is expensive. The potential profit margins on that are far lower than on something like this.

Which is why it’s a hopeful sign that the site is doing any original reporting at all.

UPDATE: Fixed a coding error to add the screen capture above.

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Ryan Chittum is a former Wall Street Journal reporter, and deputy editor of The Audit, CJR's business section. If you see notable business journalism, give him a heads-up at Follow him on Twitter at @ryanchittum.