An Open Letter to the Huffington Post Regarding Journalistic Integrity

Memo to: Arianna Huffington, Howard Fineman, Sam Stein, Amanda Terkel, Alex Wagner, and other respected journalists at the Huffington Post.

RE: Journalistic Integrity

Dear Writers and Editors,

It has become increasingly and painfully obvious that the previous standards for journalistic integrity at the Huffington Post are being ‘challenged’.  The slippage seems to have occurred around the time of the AOL merger. While it isn’t clear that this event is the cause, you may have recently noticed an increase in complaints from your readership in the commentary section of your articles.

Misleading headlines are becoming de rigueur for your articles. Titles using titillating key words that really have nothing to do with the article, titles that are only tangentially related to the topic, and titles that are just blatantly sensationalist all designed, of course, to get your readers to click on them. At first it was annoying but we chalked it up to inexperienced writers because, as everyone knows, much of your content comes from unpaid bloggers which is a separate complaint that I understand Huffington Post will soon be addressing in court.

But then the misleading titles went beyond annoying and became insulting. Your readers would see a headline that looked suspiciously sensational and click it only to confirm that they had been suckered into an article that wasn’t the least bit close to what the title implied. We felt cheapened and used, quite frankly.

But now you are wading into the waters of dishonesty. Here are a couple of examples from this past weekend:

“Ron Paul blows away GOP primary field in straw poll”

This is regarding the straw poll at the Republican Leadership Conference in New Orleans on Saturday. Technically the title is true. Ron Paul did beat out the others in a poll at that event by a wide margin but the article failed to provide any details as to why that was the case. It didn’t mention that the Ron Paul campaign may have been unduly influencing the results of these straw polls by providing incentives for his supporters to attend these events in order to stuff the ballot box and give a false impression of national popularity (see previous article on the topic). In fact, the Ron Paul campaign is likely counting on news outlets to do just what you did and report it as fact without critical analysis or details. To the uniformed who do not know what a straw poll is or that it is not a true, randomized poll or an accurate depiction of national results but a snapshot at an event that is subject to influence, is giving a tacit impression that Paul is the frontrunner of the Republican primary. Professional polls indicate that he is not the national frontrunner yet you neglect to mention that. But here’s an even more egregious example:

“Anthony Weiner resignation will damage Democrats ‘for a generation’”

This was in response to a segment on the Rachel Maddow Show on Thursday, June 16 in regards to the Anthony Weiner scandal and the subsequent media circus revolving around it. The alternate headline to this reads “Maddow is Furious!”. I’ve watched the segment a couple of times and furious is not the emotion that came across to me but be that as it may, the main headline is just a flat-out lie. Maddow said that the media’s reaction to the Weiner story and the Democrat’s failure to react to the media coverage will cause the Democratic Party damage for a generation not Weiner’s resignation itself. Her words:

Congratulations, Democrats. In an era of unhinged, ideological, big-money, conservative media that is wholly and admittedly divorced from the precepts of journalism in hounding Anthony Weiner into resigning,  for the distraction of all this coverage, you have just fed and unleashed this beast against yourselves probably for a generation

Your headline and the body of the article make it appear as if her criticism was of Anthony Weiner’s behaviour when in fact, she was being critical of Democrats and of the media (that would be you, Huffington Post).

It has been painful to watch the Huffington Post turn into a tabloid that is no different than the kind in the check-out aisle at the supermarket hawking Bat Boy sightings or alien abductions but that appears to be where you are headed. If that is indeed where the bar is set that you feel is necessary to move click-thrus, you’ve certainly managed to limbo beneath it.

The behaviour of the shock jocks at Weiner’s press conference was worse than anything Anthony Weiner did but the complicitous race to the bottom that the rest of the media is taking is becoming worrisome. Maddow and Jon Stewart’s criticisms of today’s media are correct. We are past treading down a slippery slope and are now enthusiastically diving down it like a Slip-n-Slide covered in cooking oil. The integrity in journalism is being compromised. Your Internet newspaper/aggregator is participating in it. And it needs to stop. You guys are better than this.

About Mr. Universe

Mr. Universe is a musician/songwriter and an ex-patriot of the south. He currently lives and teaches at a University in the Pacific Northwest. He is a long distance hiker who has hiked the Appalachian Trail and the Pacific Crest Trail. He is also an author and woodworker. An outspoken political voice, he takes a decidedly liberal stance in politics.
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5 Responses to An Open Letter to the Huffington Post Regarding Journalistic Integrity

  1. TheAlchemyst says:

    Yall are STILL complaining about Ron Paul supporters stuffing ballots? If it were so easy, why isn’t everyone doing it? Please give us some credit and just accept that hey, maybe Ron Paul ACTUALLY garners some real support?

  2. Mr. Universe says:

    @The Alchemyst

    Well I don’t really have a pony in the race and as far as Republican candidates go I like the guy in a crazy uncle sort of way.

    But yes, my complaint is with misrepresentation of Paul’s national popularity by the media based on results from inaccurate and influenced straw polls. Another counter argument I keep getting is that this is a measure of ‘enthusiasm’ for Paul. Well that is kind of a moot point as well since votes are votes no matter how enthusiastically one pulls the lever. Enthusiasm does not equate greater political support for a candidate.

    If it’s any consolation, I hope your guy wins the primary. Should be entertaining.

  3. Andy says:

    Well put. I am getting rather weary of going through the very experiences you describe. I hope somebody at HP reads this, but if they did, I’m sure the headline would be “Blogger SLAMS HP!”

  4. Randy Brown says:

    If you advertize on GAWKER, Your brand has been boycotted!

    Here are the steps you can take to remove the boycott:

    Do not continue to buy advertising on the tabloid sites of GAWKER MEDIA, those sites are:
    Gawker, Gizmodo, Kotaku, Jezebel, Deadspin, Lifehacker, Jalopnik & IO9

    Do you want to be associated with an entity whose staff the San Mateo Police department is forcibly entering the homes of for criminal investigations?

    Do you want to be involved with an organization that a major corporation has charged with criminal actions?

    Do you want to be associated with an organization who makes their money off of lies, falsehoods and the lowest possible level of tabloid
    provocation?

    Do you want your brand associated with an organization whom the New Yorker says is blogged by a demographic made up of 16-18 year old unemployed, emotionally disturbed, disenchanted, drug addicted teenagers?

    Do you want your brand associated with a company who paid their staff to sabotage the equipment in the corporate booths at the Consumer Electronics Show?

    Do you want your brand associated with a publisher that pays his staff to pretend to be bloggers in order to create false controversy?

    Do you want to have your brand associated with PROSTITUTION?

    The British tabloid crisis has now reached America. Do you want your brand involved in the next revelations? Have you seen the info that ties NewsCorp to Gawker?

    Public: Encourage the police to continue their investigations of Gawker Media.

    For more information see:

    http://boycott-gawker-and-gizmodo.weebly.com

  5. My name is Dr. Arash Irandoost, I am a victim of Huffington post’s malice and irresponsible journalism via a young Islamic Republic of Iran supporter 22 year old kid who was allowed to post a malicious and erroneous article, accusing me of wrongfully of being a MEK member, an organization that is currently classified as FTO. I have written two letters to Mrs. Arianna Huffington without courtesy of a reply. I plan to pursue it legally, any help will be much appreciated. We need to let the world know just how this organization operates!

    goyzanbila@yahoo.com

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