Wednesday, February 06, 2008

Huffington Post - For Entertainment Purposes Only

Quick scans of today's main pages on the Huffington Post show the usual mix of celebrity bloggers and celebrity photos and celebrity news. Sometimes it seems that politicians make the Huff only insofar as they themselves are celebs.

The Huffer has a bad habit of putting headlines on the main page that promise content that isn't delivered. An example today is "West Wing" actor Bradley Whitford's column on the supreme court: "Supreme Injustices", with the tag line, "It's not too late to take back the Court. Supreme Court Justices may keep their jobs for life, but the person with the power to appoint them does not. Conservatives know where their candidates stand on judges. Do you?" That seems much more interesting than the usual HuffPo scandal and innuendo, so I bit. The article pontificates vaguely about the importance of who gets on the bench, but says not a thing about Hillary or Obama or who they might appoint. It doesn't even comment that there's little to say because there's so little difference between the two candidates, and such a huge gap on this issue between Democrats and Republicans.

Here's another (and keep in mind I'm only reading the articles that seem serious): "BREAKING -- Clinton's Economic Stimulus Package", with the tag line, "Just off the phone with a top Clinton strategist. It's a specific plan, not like Obama's "let's all hold hands and reach for the stars, which we can't even grab because we're all tangled up in each others' hands..."" This one turns out to be a (not funny) joke, with the stimulus package being the $5M she loaned to her campaign. I guess the joke is that a reader who wanted some real information might have been so stupid as to look for it here. Heyuk, yuk indeed.

I've said it before, but we need to be very wary of "new" "alternative" "web-based" media. Complain about the New York Times all you want (I do), but it abides by newspaper standards and government regulations, and readers have recourse when they detect unfactual or overly biased reporting. Newspapers can even get in trouble for not printing a fair representation of viewpoints in letters to the editor. They can face legal penalties for being unfactual. They regularly print corrections to even the most minor errors. Mainstream print media is far more responsible, reliable and accountable than the alternative press.

Unlike mainstream media, there are no codes of ethics to govern the behavior of alternative media and money-making blog aggregators like HuffPost. The HuffPost provides no auditor to ensure fairness in reporting. Its entire web site is sensationalism designed to increase ad revenue. It should contain a warning, "For entertainment purposes only" - but it doesn't even need to do that, because it abides by no laws, guidelines or standards.


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