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Monday, July 11, 2011

Huffington Post Suspends Reporter for Rewriting Article

Posted By on Mon, Jul 11, 2011 at 4:10 PM

Arianna Huffington
  • Arianna Huffington

If you're at all familiar with The Huffington Post, the above headline should sound odd. The website spawned by journalistic dilettante Arianna Huffington built its wild success, after all, largely on "aggregating" (read: rewriting without performing actual reporting) the news content of other publications.

So it is that HuffPo's decision to indefinitely suspend business writer Amy Lee for cribbing too directly from an AdAge article has some media types scratching their heads. Ryan Tate at Gawker puts a fine point on this puzzlement, scoring an interview with a former HuffPo employee who points to the hypocrisy evident in the handling of Lee's story.

The ex-employee tells Tate:

That is what we were taught and told to do at HuffPost. Arianna and the higher ups made a decision to stop linking out directly as much and rewrite stories "the way the AP does." They even hired people specifically to rewrite other people's work. Whenever they get caught they just blame an underling.

There's no doubt that the overwrought apology offered to AdAge by Huffington Post executive business editor Peter Goodman -- formerly of the New York Times -- rings somewhat hollow in light of HuffPo's history. Goodman wrote in an e-mail:

We have made a very substantial investment in original reporting here, bringing in dozens of new writers in recent months. And while we will continue to curate the news for our audience, what occurred in this instance is entirely unacceptable and collides directly with the values that are at work in our newsroom. We have zero tolerance for this sort of conduct.

We can't help wondering whether HuffPo would have had a $315 million price tag this year if those "values" had been in place when the site launched in 2005.

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Peter Jamison


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