Huffington Post founder Arianna Huffington has a vision for journalism at her new employer, AOL, but that vision is completely opposed to the ideals of journalism laid down by Democratic President Barack Obama in an interview with Bill O’Reilly this past Sunday.
In his much-hyped interview with Fox News talking head Bill O’Reilly, President Barack Obama was surprised when the interviewer asked what he (O’Reilly) and his news agency could do better. Obama responded by urging that news media should “give people the facts” with less emphasis on sensationalism, story, and spin. [Source: Mirkinson, Jack. “Bill O’Reilly To Obama: What Can I, Fox News Do Better? (VIDEO),” Huffington Post, 2/8/11. Downloaded from: http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2011/02/08/bill-oreilly-to-obama-fox-news-better_n_820096.html]. In other words, Obama wants journalists to give people the straight facts.
But that is exactly what Arianna Huffington does not want. Following the announcement that AOL will pay $315 million to acquire the Huffington Post, Arianna shared her vision of journalism: “We want to do real journalism that puts flesh and blood on the data… We feel that journalism has become too much about numbers, too much about polling data, and we’ve lost the story.” [Source: “Arianna: Journalism Should Put ‘Flesh And Blood On The Data’ (VIDEO),” Huffington Post, 2/8/11. Downloaded from: http://www.huffingtonpost.com/huff-tv/arianna-journalism-should_b_820049.html]
So, while President Barack Obama would prefer bare facts, Arianna Huffington wants embellishment and “story.” This just shows that where you stand depends on where you sit. Obama constantly struggles to combat media spin and adverse interpretations of his actions, so he wants more facts and less commentary. Arianna has succeeded at the Huffington Post by providing heavy commentary and drama to otherwise mediocre news events; she realizes that attracting viewers requires some spicy spin (and she will undoubtedly add some spice to AOL post-acquisition).
Politically speaking, Arianna Huffington is on the same side of the aisle as Barack Obama, so it is interesting to see them disagree about the role of journalism. This shows that Obama’s challenges in terms of information control come not just from the right, but from all corners of the internet-fueled media. As pressure to attract viewers increases, Obama can expect AOL, Arianna Huffington, and everyone else to increase the drama and continue to stretch facts to their story-telling limits.
“Arianna: Journalism Should Put ‘Flesh And Blood On The Data’ (VIDEO),” Huffington Post, 2/8/11. Downloaded from: http://www.huffingtonpost.com/huff-tv/arianna-journalism-should_b_820049.html
Mirkinson, Jack. “Bill O’Reilly To Obama: What Can I, Fox News Do Better? (VIDEO),” Huffington Post, 2/8/11. Downloaded from: http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2011/02/08/bill-oreilly-to-obama-fox-news-better_n_820096.html