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Wednesday, March 3, 2010

HuffPo Enters Dodgy Deal by Outsourcing Nonprofit Coverage

Posted By on Wed, Mar 3, 2010 at 2:45 PM

click to enlarge The new ethos of journalism
  • The new ethos of journalism
Is it just us, or does the New Media Revolution sometimes feel like a plain-and-simple collapse of journalism's quality and standards? Bloggers offering naive takes on the day's events in turgid prose, enterprise projects that read like a high-school yearbook section, preening academics and political activists presuming to know more about news coverage than the pros -- it's enough to make an ink-stained hack chew the tip off his pen.

Now comes word that the Huffington Post, one of the more insufferable prototypes of online news delivery, has entered an ethically dodgy deal with its new "Impact" section, which provides coverage of charitable and social-justice nonprofits. As Laura McGann notes in a fine story at Nieman Journalism Lab today, HuffPo has farmed out editorial control of this venture to Causecast, a for-profit company that offers technological consulting services to nonprofits -- including some it has written about on Huffington Post.

That's what old ink-and-pulp types call a "conflict of interest."

McGann reports that Causecast has covered some organizations with which

it does business, including Malaria No More and Create the Good. No

disclosure of these relationships was provided to readers. Offering a prominent platform for paid consultants to pimp their clients is fine for all kinds of organizations. Newspapers are not among them -- including "The Internet Newspaper" that Huffington Post aspires to be.

HuffPo's business model relies on unpaid content providers, and, in some cases, content from other sources without proper attribution. (Including the occasional photograph from SF Weekly; a shot we ran of a billboard was republished on Huffington Post, and only attributed to us after we got in touch with the site's editors.) None of this inspires much confidence in its viability as a replacement for old-school print, and neither does the ethical lapse apparent in the design and execution of Impact.

Photo   |   Muffet

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Peter Jamison


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