Huffington Advocates for ‘Truth in Journalism’ at I.C.

November 4, 2009 3:03 am0 comments
Michelle Honor

Famed columnist, author and political commentator Arianna Huffington posted on her Twitter account just before she took to the stage at Ithaca College last night to address the current state of journalism and the rise of new media.

Huffington is a woman of superior importance in independent media, said Jeff Cohen, Ithaca College’s endowed chair and director of Park Center for Independent Media, in his introduction.
“[She] personifies the growth and importance of independent media in our society. She has written for years about the journalistic crisis in the mainstream media … but rather then just complain [about] media, she has built her own,” Cohen said.[img_assist|nid=39488|title=Let me show you the truth...|desc=Arianna Huffington, co-founder and editor in chief of The Huffington Post, nationally syndicated columnist and author, speaks at Ithaca College last night as part of the Park Distinguished Visitor Series.|link=node|align=left|width=336|height=236]
This empire includes media in multiple forms: on the internet, she has created the popular news and blog site, The Huffington Post; on the public airwaves, she co-hosts a roundtable program Left, Right & Center; on television, she serves as a frequent guest; and in print, she has published 12 books.
Huffington began her speech by discussing the crisis present in current mainstream media. She remarked that the media does not cover what really happens in our communities but instead focuses on erroneous stories such as last month’s “balloon boy” fiasco.
“Whenever the latest of those stories rears its ugly head I go cold turkey on it and I refuse to watch anything about it. It is my act of civil disobedience,” Huffington said.
Huffington also lamented the mainstream media’s simultaneous obsession with irrelevant news stories and its failure to recognize what she considers the two biggest stories of our time: the economic meltdown and the war in Iraq. She claimed that this failure is due to mainstream media’s abandonment of stories.
“Mainstream media suffers from ADD,” she said.
Huffington insisted that journalists must work to develop their stories in different ways until they break through. “You cannot take your eye off the ball, because that is when bad things happen,” she said.
Huffington also said this crisis and the United States’ current state of democracy illustrate special interest groups’ influence in the country. “Now we are seeing just how overwhelming the power of entrenched special interests is.”
As a result, Huffington advocates for truth in journalism. “Our job as journalists is to tell the truth wherever the chips may fall. That is where we make it clear that there is no partisanship involved.”
“It is not about being balanced. It is about the truth.”
Lowell Wang ‘10, who attended the lecture, questioned Huffington’s discussion of truth: “Truth is subjective … I find that the way she portrays truth is through a left-leaning lens.”
Huffington, however, argued that new media is ready to produce an alternative to what has become the established reality.
“Now we have the explosion of the Internet,” she said. “YouTube and the Internet signal the end of roving politics. Now there is a higher chance of letting truth prevail.”
In her description of the new media, Huffington emphasized the concept of an emerging linked economy. “When something resonates on one blog it is immediately picked up, linked, emailed and it find its own life. That is the most optimistic thing I will say tonight. It really is an incredible cause for celebration.”
This emerging linked economy, Huffington said, is responsible for the election of President Barack Obama last year. “Were it not for the Internet, Obama would not be president. His use of the Internet to organize, to keep people connected to his campaign and to each other, [enabled him to] win the presidency against overwhelming odds. In 2004, we didn’t have YouTube. Today it is hard to imagine a presidential campaign without it.”
The Huffington Post itself has a new section, entitled Impact, that directly links readers to take action through fundraising for specific causes. Huffington cited new media as “such an enormous power that we have not fully come to terms with.”
Yet not everybody in the audience agrees with Huffington. Washington D.C. native Jonathan Tuerk found Huffington’s claims somewhat unrealistic: “She is almost idealistic [to think] that if the information is out there people will read it. That is not necessarily true.”
Huffington also addressed the future of journalism in relation to that of print media: “The future of newspapers is not the same as the future of journalism. Journalism can be available on multiple platforms — on your computer, cell phone, BlackBerry — it doesn’t have to be in print.”
Yet, Huffington does not foresee the complete death of print media. Today, journalism is developing into more of an engaging medium, Huffington said.
“We have recombined the best of the old and the best of the new and given a voice to the voiceless. Now you are engaged and you want to take some kind of action,” Huffington said.
Finally, Huffington spoke of the tremendous implications of new media: “If we want to have any impact in the world and expand that impact in the world, we need to embrace this new media … The great thing about [it is that] instead of waiting for someone to save us, [new media allows us to] discover the leadership in ourselves to tell the truth and see the impact we can have in the world.”
Huffington ended her lecture encouraging listeners to continue this conversation through new media: “What your generation does with these new tools and this new media is going to define what happens in journalism, politics and the rest of our culture.”