Point of View: Huffington Post, AOL discard basic journalism values

By Nick Dean
Editor in Chief

I don’t remember the last time I got a piece of information from AOL. When I think AOL, I think two things: “You’ve got mail!” and screeching beeps coupled with a long waiting period until you can use your dial-up Internet. I don’t think of AOL as a major news provider — and recent events tell me that I never will.

The company bought The Huffington Post last week for $315 million. Granted, I have never liked the Huffington Post— you can picture a little man inside of my head that screams ‘biased!’ at the very mention of The Huffington Post — because every time I hear the name, that is what I think. It’s biased and so far left it didn’t even try to masquerade as something else.

Don’t think this is a journalist’s rant on objectivity. After all, this is a free country (at times). Read what you will and write the way you want. I just have a hard time reading something knowing an important detail is being left out to make the story too perfect for one side of the aisle.

AOL is suffering in the page-views section of online competition and, to put it frankly, CEO Tim Armstrong knows he has little time to solve that problem before AOL goes the way of dial-up — down.

AOL acquired the blog TechCrunch in September of last year and Armstrong said he is looking to cut across devices and interests when buying new companies. Boasting more than 40 million page views a month, The Huffington Post won’t disappoint and should bring many eyes to the now AOL site each month. However, the larger picture for online media is a doom and gloom one as another corporation gives a hefty, $315 million pat on the back of biased journalism. Well-know leftist pundit and founder of The Huffington Post, Arianna Huffington, will now make all editorial decisions for the news side. Her personal biases are apparent — through her past and the blog she just sold — so as AOL looks to increase readership it will also be promoting a style of journalism that does nothing but mar the face of an industry once full of morally sound (though crude and ink-stained) free press advocates.

However, Huff’s new job mixed with her liberal bias isn’t the only reason the company has no sense of ethical journalism. The Business Insider leaked a document, The AOL Way, about Armstrong’s goals for the news side of AOL. To sum it up shortly: Produce more, produce it faster and make more money.

The new plan teaches their editors to decide on a story’s necessity based on the traffic it could bring to the site, the revenue potential and the turn-around time. A “profitability consideration” is what the company wants editors to use when deciding on the coverage of a story.

Thrown to the wind is the in-depth expose that takes time, hard work and a knack for the job. AOL could not care less for the true point of journalism.

To AOL, news stories are merely frames around which to place revenue-increasing advertisements. The actual words and their meaning for this world are of no worth. Their new acquisition may bring along a batch of journalists with some moral fiber — and some who prefer liberal analysis to wholesome analysis. Either way, if the new “way” is the standard for AOL then the dial-up screeching was their swan song and we will all begin to see messy, uninteresting and inaccurate news from the behind-the-times company using unethical means to grasp at some sense of relevancy.

Nick Dean is a junior journalism and political science major from Austin. He is the editor-in-chief of the Lariat.