“The Huffington Post Is Truly a Creature of Its Medium”

The Economist’s Democracy in America blog chats up Dan Froomkin about White House coverage, the perils of attempted objectivity, and working at an “internet newspaper” that often acts more like an interactive supermarket tabloid:

DIA: Much of Huffington Post’s traffic is driven by gossipy stories about sex and entertainment. Are you concerned about the effect this has on the site’s respectability?

Mr Froomkin: It’s not my favourite thing about the site. But mostly, I recognise it as evidence of how the Huffington Post is truly a creature of its medium. A fair amount of people come to a website in part to be entertained, and to deny that would be to turn away a large audience of potential news consumers. And please keep in mind that our staid, holier-than-though newspapers carry horoscopes and Sudoku, not just news. I know some people who subscribe to newspapers primarily because they couldn’t live without the comics.

DIA: Many of the more serious items on HuffPo are links to reports from outside news sources (often print media), which has led Isaac Chotiner to describe the relationship as “parasitic”. What do you think of criticism like that and how much of HuffPo’s traffic comes as a result of its own original content?

Mr Froomkin: You should just as well ask the outside news sources we link to how much of their traffic comes from us! Again, what we are doing is embracing the medium, and the greatest thing about this medium is the link. Then we add enormous gatekeeper value, not to mention we often write much better headlines than the news organisations we link to write for their own stories. That said, the stuff I’m proudest of is our original content, which is also the site’s major traffic driver.

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Megan Garber is an assistant editor at the Nieman Journalism Lab at Harvard University. She was formerly a CJR staff writer.