The Huffington Post founder and cable news ubiquity was the headline honoree at today's Mirror Awards, given out by Syracuse University's Newhouse School of Communications to recognize the best coverage of media. The news that she'd be getting a lifetime achievement award drew a wet raspberry from Advertising Age's Simon Dumenco, who described it as "bitterly ironic" that a journalism school would "honor a woman who thinks journalists should work for free!" Huffington was also recently vilified by The New Republic, which accused her of free-riding on the very newspapers she's helping to destroy (echoing an allegation leveled earlier by Time.) Just last night, she felt compelled to use her allotted five-words at the Webby Awards to defend herself, saying, "I didn't kill newspapers, okay?"
If that's the case, I asked Huffington as the Mirror Awards got underway, why do so many people think she did?
"You need to tell them that I had a lot of help from Craigslist," she quipped.
Does it hurt her feelings that so many journalists see her as a threat to their livelihoods?
"People who know know that if the Huffington Post did not exist, newspapers would have the same problems they have now," she insisted. She went on:
I think they're missing the point of the fact that we are in a tremendous time of transition, and the question is how do we save journalism. And, after all, there's a lot that needs to be done to strengthen journalism, not just save it. We should not forget that with a few very honorable exceptions, journalists missed the two biggest stories of our time: the lead-up to the war in Iraq and the economic meltdown. So I think what's happening online can help break through the static. By repetition, by staying with the story, I think it actually changes the conventional wisdom around issues.Ever the master of the recycled soundbite, Huffington went on to repeat most of what she told me word-for-word in her acceptance speech. She also used the opportunity to defend herself against the charge by Dumenco (among others) that she doesn't believe in paying journalists:
We pay our journalists, we pay our editors, we pay our reporters. Our bloggers come and go. They write when the spirit moves them, and they do it because they want to be part of the conversation. They want to be heard.