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High-octane coverage

The Huffington Post owns Gulf coverage; plus, that Hitchens memoir
By PETER KADZIS  |  June 7, 2010

1006_hitch_main
OXFORD, 1968 Hitchens spent the lion’s share of his time engaged in extracurricular activities.

Despite admirable wall-to-wall coverage from the national mainstream press and unusually in-depth reports from network television and cable, the Huffington Post has emerged as perhaps the single best go-to source for developing news and wide-ranging commentary about the British Petroleum (BP) oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico.

My experience using HuffPost to follow other big stories may be eccentric, but there have been times in the past when the sheer volume and diversity of contributions has been, if not overwhelming, then not conducive to clarity.

It just occurs to me that, in reflecting upon HuffPost's Gulf performance, I may well be seeing the fruits of a slow but sure professionalization of standards: solid, in; marginal, out.

With a story such as the Gulf eco disaster, HuffPost enjoys a distinct advantage over its mainstream competitors. It has a clear point of view: environment, good; BP, bad.

It's not as if the New York Times, the Washington Post, and the Wall Street Journal are exactly giving BP the benefit of any doubt. It is that the "on-the-one-hand, on-the-other-hand" imperatives of daily journalism give a decided advantage to a media outlet with both factual integrity and a strong point of view.

Channel surfing Tuesday morning to catch television's latest round of stories, I saw BP CEO Tony Hayward saying two things. First, Hayward said he was sorry for the "disruption" — understated, but fair enough. Then he added, "I'd like my life back" — undoubtedly true, but the words of a massively self-obsessed twit.

Gazelle Emami, a HuffPost Green Team contributor who has been doing yeoman work on this story, set up her version — video by Think Progress — with just the right balance of outrage and analysis.

In fact, for the general-news consumer, HuffPost Green may be the most satisfying and efficient way to follow this saga of corporate arrogance, incompetence, and banditry.

A glance at just a handful of pieces on the site's Green page reveals news that former vice-president Dick Cheney's old press secretary has been retained by BP as a spokesman; a meditation by Robert Kuttner on BP and the banks; a recommendation by Robert Reich on why President Barack Obama should place BP in temporary receivership; and a lucid but wonkishly respectable essay by Karin Lissakers of the Revenue Watch Institute explaining the pressing need for corporate transparency.

When it launched five years ago, Huffington Post more or less hit the ground running. It picked up traction and credibility during the 2008 presidential election and the financial meltdown that ran concurrent with it. Its Gulf performance bolsters its claim to be the Internet newspaper.

The importance of being Hitch
In a more pleasing world, Christopher Hitchens would have been born with a triple-barreled surname, something along the lines of, say, Digby-Vaine-Trumpington.

Christopher Digby-Vaine-Trumpington. Yes, that would work.

Having finished Hitchens's generally entertaining, somewhat enlightening, occasionally annoying, and unfortunately titled autobiography Hitch-22, I can't be altogether sure that the great man himself might not agree.

If Hitchens had a family crest, its motto might read, "Eat with the Tories, vote with the Liberals — and, by all means, bomb Baghdad."

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4 Comments / Add Comment

scribr

Mr. Kadzis writes: "...the Huffington Post has emerged as perhaps the single best go-to source for developing news ... about the British Petroleum (BP) oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico."

A cursory look at the top HuffPo stories on the spill posted at the time of this writing shows that a grand total of none of them were produced by anyone at HuffPo. They are, from the top of the page down, from the Associated Press, McClatchy, the Associated Press, the Center for Public Integrity and Mother Jones. The photo package was produced by the Associated Press, which in turn got many of its photos from its member newspapers.

I work for a middle-sized newspaper in a middle-sized market. There are more reporters in the bathroom here at this very moment, taking a piss, than are employed by the Huffington Post.

And this news organization has several times more reporters covering the Gulf disaster than HuffPo employs in total.

HuffPo may one day be a go-to source for news, and one would have to be pretty naive to not recognize that its model may represent the future of the industry. But until HuffPo and other web destinations actually put some feet on the ground, they're just a collection of mirrors, reflecting the work of others.
Posted: June 04 2010 at 11:52 AM

Bob Andelman

The most extraordinary coverage I've seen/heard has been Rachel Maddow on MSNBC, which I listen to on my cell phone via the Stitcher app. I never listened or watched her much before but her on-scene reporting from Louisiana has been unparalleled.
Posted: June 04 2010 at 12:49 PM

Anonymous

I have neither face nor palm large enough to properly convey the magnitude of cluelessness shown by this post. Scribr nailed it, probably far more gracefully and diplomatically than it deserved. The tired "MSM sux" trope gets trotted out by the "alternative" press during every major event, yet these "alt" news sources happily piggy-back on the groundwork done by the MSM. Major news orgs don't have an exclusive franchise on lazy banality. This post proves that.
Posted: June 04 2010 at 9:32 PM

jimasher

As one of the editors coordinating the investigative reporting on the oil spill for McClatchy, it offends me that you'd pick an aggregater of someone else's news to praise. McClatchy has been breaking one terrific story after another and when Arianna's crowd of underpaid plagiarists picks up our stuff and that of others, you say: Swell. I say, you should broaden your reading material and find out the truth. You want to see real journalism? Check our www.mcclatchydc.com. It might surprise you. -- James Asher, Investigative
Editor, McClatchy Washington Bureau.
Posted: June 05 2010 at 11:41 PM
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