HuffPo founder: Journalism has to get away from ‘if it bleeds it leads’ mentality



Arianna Huffington has said news outlets need to get away from the “if it bleeds then it leads mentality” and ensure their coverage has the full context around it.

The founder of The Huffington Post laid out the online publication’s plans for the next year at parent company AOL’s Newfront presentation in New York overnight, ahead of the launch of an Australian edition in the coming weeks.

“We need to move away from the idea that the world is absolutely going to hell in hand basket,” Huffington told a room full of US media buyers at the AOL Newfronts at 4 World Trade Centre.

“We of course continue covering the crises, the problems, the disfunction but we (at Huffington Post) want to show our viewers that this is not all that is going on in the world.

“To fulfil our mission as journalists we need to give a full and complete picture of what is happening. This means going beyond the tired idea of ‘if it bleeds, then it leads’ that dominates so much of our news and has led to some much copycat crime.”

Huffington was promoting a new online ideas series called Now What? hosted by former Vice journalist Ryan Duffy, aimed at showcasing the solutions to global problems such as global warming, famine and disease.

“We need to create copycat solutions and that’s where Ryan Duffy comes in. He came up with this radical idea of searching for solutions, go around the world looking for them – if you want it’s a kind of new gonzo journalism.

“This is one of the moments where the planets have aligned and the real convergence has happened.”

Huffington said she was pushing her staff to put more context into their reporting and show solutions to global challenges.

“Four months ago we launched a global editorial initiative called What’s Working? The focus was to look at what is working around the world on solutions, innovation, ingenuity, compassion.

“Do you remember gonzo journalists? They are very sponsorable don’t you think?” she joked.

“We want to reimagine journalism and appealing to our better angels will create a positive contagion.”

AOLDuring its Newfront presentation AOL flagged it was moving from creating content for a “season” to a “year”, developing new video content year around, something AOL called a “Content 365” strategy.

Dermott McCormack, head of video at AOL, said: “I’ve been in this industry for a while and I’ve seen the traditional media companies trash on the digital companies and the digital companies trash on the TV companies. Now firstly why can’t we all get along?

“But we believe in both here. What concerns us is that consumers love their smartphones and they love their televisions. We plan on taking the best of television and the best of digital and bringing them together, not pitting them against each other.

“TV has a long incredible legacy of great storytelling and digital has a masterful way of reaching the consumer when and wherever they are.

“Let’s create content that maps out how people actually are consuming content today. Content 365 is about creating content of all shapes and size, on all shapes of devices everyday. That is how consumers are consuming content today.”

Prior to the event, AOL head Graham Moysey told Mumbrella that AOL was eagerly anticipating the local launch of Huffington Post Australia, which will be launched in partnership with Fairfax. 

“Fairfax are an amazing partner,” said Moysey. “There was a massive demand to see who could partner with the Huffington Post and I think Fairfax is really excited and we are excited about that partnership, which will give us an enhanced display and enhanced video presence.”

Asked how big the local Huffpo operation would be he said: “For a market like that you would most likely have a 20-30 people editorial resource and then they will plug into the existing editorial resource.

“They will then have the Huffington Post as one of their heroes in the sales package.

“I know (Fairfax) are taking it very seriously, which is great, and I think the potential from a market perspective is that we will grow organically with demand and I think we’ll see what that looks like pretty quickly.”

Nic Christensen in New York


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