We were inspired by our readers demanding more after our first interview with Craig Newmark, Founder of The Craigslist. We sought an interview with Arianna Huffington, Founder of The HuffingtonPost and she obliged. We have been patient enough to wait for her to respond at her own pace considering the many engagement she has to attend to but all-in-all, we are happy that she agreed to do this.
Arianna is the President and Editor-in-Chief of The Huffington Post Media Group after selling The Huffington Post to AOL for a record breaking figure of $315 Million . She also run for the Governor’s post in California recall election in 2003 as an independent candidate. Forbes named Arianna as one of the most influential women in 2009. She is also on the list of The Guardian’s Top 100 Media List besides being among the top 10 women in media on the same list.
She says that AOL has no plans for Africa at the momentbut the group is looking to have presence in the continent some time. For the emerging markets, AOL is focusing in expanding to places like Turkey, Brazil, India, Russia and Mexico.
What Inspired You to Create the Huffington Post?
The whole idea of The Huffington Post from the start was to take the sort of conversations found around water coolers and dinner tables — about politics and art and books and food and sex — and open them up and bring them online, so everybody could participate. We wanted to make the way people experience news into a two-way process and widen the sense of community.
What do you think of the Bloggers vs. Mainstream Journalists competition? How are US bloggers and mainstream journalists handling the challenges?
There has been a big debate over the last few years about whether newspapers will survive, and whether the future is going to be only online. But I think that’s no longer a productive way of looking at things. And that’s because the lines between blogger and mainstream journalist have grown a lot less distinct. Increasingly what we see are purely online news operations like The Huffington Post adopting the most traditional, basic tenets of journalism: accuracy, fairness, fact-checking, more reporters, more editors.
Mainstream, traditional operations like The New York Times and NPR are adopting more and more of the digital tools that can bring in the community to make it part of the creation of journalism, through citizen journalism, through reports from the ground, through video, through Twitter feeds, through all the new media available to us. So I don’t think it’s the case that the online and offline worlds are in competition. As least for us, I see our competition as being lack of engagement, apathy and cynicism.
What do you think someone who needs to make it as a blogger should do especially in countries where bloggers are viewed more as controversial spoilt brats?
In France, where I recently visited — and this is true of many other countries as well — the media establishment at the top still stubbornly clings to the distinction between online journalism and print journalism. In the U.S., as I said above, that line is quickly eroding.
I’m convinced that distinction will erode in other countries as well. What will likely help to hasten it is for bloggers to do what bloggers can do at their best: continue to engage the public, be relentless and passionate, focus on stories you think are important, as opposed to what the establishment thinks is important.
Why made you change your views from the more conservative to liberal?
My beliefs about what a society should be, and what its goals should be, didn’t change. What changed was my understanding of what role the government should play in achieving those goals. I used to believe that the private sector could step up to the plate and address a lot of the major issues we were facing — income inequality, for example, and the need to care for those left behind. But I saw firsthand that this wasn’t happening — especially at the scale at which it needed to happen.
You are one of the most influential women in media currently. What 3 things would you suggest drives you?
First of all my daughters. I’ll count them as one — even though they’re very different!
Second, my belief that, with so many crises facing our world, the media, and especially social media, can have a positive impact, as we have seen this year from Tahrir Square to Zuccotti Park.
Finally, of the many things my mother taught me, the one that’s proved most useful in my life is the understanding that failure is not the opposite of success, it’s a stepping stone to success.
How do you look at the competition between bloggers and social media platforms in being opinion leaders?
As the Internet passes out of its adolescence and into maturity, bloggers and social media leaders are increasingly emerging as trusted guides, helping us navigate through the growing clutter around us. And since competition compels us to improve, that’s good for everyone.
How would you encourage more women who would want to take on being investigative journalism? How should they handle the challenge?
There are plenty of great examples of women investigative reporters, like HuffPost’s Lynne Peeples, who reported on those who developed cancer from exposure to ground zero after 9/11 and are still trying to get health coverage. And Mother Jones reporter Kate Shepard, who relentlessly covered BP’s questionable behavior before, during and after the disastrous Gulf Oil Spill, and was named one of HuffPost’s 2011 Game Changers.
So they’re great role-models for women who want to take on investigative journalism.
Who have been your influencers / Mentor in media?
My media mentors include Barbara Walters, Bill Maher and Bernard Levin, the London Times columnist I spent seven years of my life with in my twenties.
Does AOL have any particular plans for Africa and emerging markets?
We are considering a number of countries for expansion at the moment, including emerging markets like Turkey, Brazil, India, Russia and Mexico. While there is no particular plan at the moment for Africa, we are certainly very interested in having a presence there.