Guest Commentary: When a Progressive Blog for Profit Like the Huffington Post Starts Peddling Panic, It's Time for Reflection


by Mark Karlin

We have enormous respect for the Huffington Post and particularly for Arianna Huffington's brilliant analysis. But when a progressive Internet site -- and the leader on the web -- takes a turn toward the sensational and panic peddling, it's time to pause for reflection upon the impact of commercial investment on the web.

Huff Post started out as a sort of a celebrity blog version of the Daily Kos -- and with the oversight of a former AOL honcho and the infusion of millions of dollars in capital, it expanded into a progressive online newspaper.  It had the money, the celebrity panache, and the brainpower to create the news source of the future, and people -- particularly liberals -- flocked to Huff Po.

But in the past few weeks, its photos and screaming mile-high headlines on the homepage appear more like the New York Post or an attempt to out-Drudge the Drudge Report.

BuzzFlash didn't really remark on this until the Swine Flu epidemic of the last few days, when the Huffington Post has resorted to spreading panic on its homepage instead of balanced news and commentary. In the past 24 hours, going to Huffington Post's front page is like being assaulted with "Attack from Mars" headlines -- and they spill out below the sensationalized photographs into multiple stories about the Swine Flu that scare the bejesus out of you.

Now, the Swine Flu should be taken seriously, but it should also be taken in context.  The powers that be at the Huffington Post have clearly made a decision to go the tabloid route in attracting readers through emotionally charged lead content. More readers means more advertising dollars and increases the value of the site to the investors.

That is regrettable, because the Huffington Post has set an important precedent for progressive news and commentary, but if it continues in the direction the top of its front page is going, it might as well just put up a for-sale sign to Rupert Murdoch

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because they have no healthcare coverage or are underinsured it seems to me the whole swine flu epidemic hysteria is a little over the top. Important story - especially after gutting the funding for programs to study/counteract flu epidemics - but not worth taking more than common sense precautions.