Web entrepreneur Arianna Huffington slammed old media at a political conference in New York today, assailing reporters for abandoning the pursuit of truth in favor of a "fake neutrality" and quailing in the face of government intimidation.
Even when traditional news organizations do break significant investigative stories, such as the Times‘ Pentagon propaganda article, Huffington said reporters still rush off to the next topic. As an alternative to this "attention deficit disorder" reporting, Huffington hailed the "obsessive compulsive disorder" tendencies of new media — picking apart stories; blending research and activism; and pressing politicians to comment and act in response to news in an autocatalytic process that creates more news. That’s what happened when the blogosphere seized on the Pentagon propaganda issue, eventually forcing late responses from Congress and presidential candidates, she noted. The same dynamics animate this week’s netroots effort to fight the White House surveillance bill, building on past reporting and pressure to get Barack Obama on the record against retroactive amnesty for telecom companies.And author Clay Shirky, who addressed the same Personal Democracy Forum conference after Huffington, hit a similar theme, declaring that nowadays "media is not a source of information, it’s a site of action."
Huffington also discussed some dark sides of the blogosphere, such as "vile" comments from people hiding their identities. Her "Internet newspaper" site, The Huffington Post, now has 30 part-time comment editors to patrol feedback. She added that her staff and volunteer bloggers are guided by a trio of new media values: transparency, accountability and community.
—Ari Melber, the Net movement correspondent for The Nation, is blogging from the "Rebooting the System" conference of the Personal Democracy Forum, where he is a contributing editor and panel moderator.