There has been vibrant discussion recently about the Huffington Post’s contribution to journalism and whether it truly is the future of newspapers. In a New Yorker piece last year, Eric Alterman reported that the site’s owners were “convinced that they are ready to reinvent the American newspaper.” It was recently announced that Arianna Huffington had been honored with a “lifetime achievement” award for journalism. It has faced constant criticism over the fact that it pays very few of its writers and drew a lot of heat when it auctioned off an internship in which the winning bidder would actually pay for the privilege of working for the news outlet. A recent New Republic piece claimed that HuffPo is “helping to destroy newspapers.”
To determine whether Huffington Post could conceivably replace the role of a newspaper, I set out to determine whether the site is making a significant contribution to original reporting. Given that there are thousands of writers across multiple sections on the site, I decided to only focus on all the headlines on its front page as of 8 p.m. tonight.
I clicked on every single one of these headlines, surveyed the stories, and divided them into these four categories:
1. Headlines that simply linked out to other news outlets.
2. Huffington Post stories that contained some kind of original reporting. I loosely defined original reporting as pulling any data that wasn’t from another news outlet, television show, or the web. So if a blogger called a source, emailed a source, sat on a conference call, published a news tip, attended an event in person, or found any information that wasnÃ¢â‚¬â„¢t easily available through a Google search, reading another news source, or watching television, I marked it as original reporting. In other words, I marked the bar for entry as low as I possibly could.
3. Huffington Post stories that simply expressed opinion and/or summarized content from other outlets.
4. Reprinted wire copy (AP, Reuters, etc…)
There were a total of 77 headlines on the front page of the Huffington Post when I conducted the survey. Of those, 4 headlines simply linked to news outlets offsite. There were 5 HuffPo stories that contained original reporting. There were 55 HuffPo stories that simply expressed opinion and/or summarized content from other outlets.The remaining 13 stories were reprinted wire copy.
So this means that approximately 6% of the HuffPo stories on the front page tonight contained original reporting. This is likely significantly fewer originally reported stories than you’d find on most major newspaper websites, including the New York Times, LA Times and the Washington Post.