Friday, April 29, 2005

Arianna Huffington's upcoming site

On Monday, the New York Times ran an article that resulted in comments at other sites. To bring everyone up to speed, from our Monday entry:

We'll start the discussion on this morning's New York Times with this:
Arianna Huffington, the columnist and onetime candidate for governor of California, is about to move blogging from the realm of the anonymous individual to the realm of the celebrity collective.
She has lined up more than 250 of what she calls "the most creative minds" in the country to write a group blog that will range over topics from politics and entertainment to sports and religion. It is essentially a nonstop virtual talk show that will be part of a Web site that will also serve up breaking news around the clock. It is to be introduced May 9.
[. . .]
Ms. Huffington's effort - to be called the Huffington Post ( - will also seek to ferret out potentially juicy items and give them legs. In fact, she has hired away Mr. Drudge's right-hand Web whiz, Andrew Breitbart, who used to be her researcher.
But unlike the Drudge Report, the Huffington Post will be interactive, offering news as well as commentary from famous people and allowing the masses to comment too, although not always directly with the celebs. Notables will oversee certain sections, with Gary Hart, the former Colorado senator, for example, taking the lead on national security issues. R. O. Blechman, the magazine illustrator, has designed the site. All material will be free and available on archives.
That's from Katharine Q. Seelye's (or "Kit Seelye" when blogging during the debates) "A Boldface Name Invites Others to Blog With Her."

I was asked my opinion and here it is.

When the fright wing screams, "Shut up, Hollywood!" we realize that's nonsense. Actors, directors, writers, producers, technicians, et al are part of this country. They have every right to speak up.

I have no idea what was behind some of the comments made.

There seemed to be an attitude that they wouldn't "speak the truth about Bully Boy" because they had their careers to worry about.

I don't recall that stopping Janeane Garofalo. Or Bruce Springsteen. Or Dave Matthews. Or Carole King. Or Sharon Stone. They and others in 2004 spoke out freely.

But more importantly, there are issues to highlight. It's not just about a candidate. Jessica Lange's testified to Congress on the issue of farming. Meryl Streep's gone before Congress.
Certainly Jane Fonda's career never prevented her from activism.

Nora Ephron, who was cited in the Times article, isn't just a wonderful director or an excellent screenwriter, she's also someone who spent years as a professional journalist. I'm not clear on why she's not qualified to post to a blog?

Ephron's a feminist and she's addressed that topic as a journalist and a filmmaker. I can't imagine she'd silence herself at this late date. Perhaps people commenting are unfamiliar with Nora Ephron?

Warren Beatty was on the list. Is it a regional thing? Did the news not travel east about Beatty's strong remarks regarding the "triangulation" b.s. of the Clinton administration? When has Warren Beatty ever censored his political beliefs? When he was working on George McGovern's campaign? When he was working on Gary Hart's campaign? Is he worried his beliefs might hurt his career? He made Reds over objections of that sort. He didn't censor himself when people screamed, "You can't make a film on John Reed!" So why exactly would he back down now?

Warren Beatty is a strong liberal and he's never hidden that. Again, maybe the news didn't travel east, but Beatty had strong words about what the Democratic Party needed and what it didn't. He didn't censor himself so this is nonsense to think that he would now.

During the Vietnam conflict, Jane Fonda spoke out. Give her credit for her courage and her activism. But she wasn't the only one. You had others. John Phillips (the Mamas and the Papas) credited his own statements to Jane Fonda's activism. So instead of getting upset that some celebrities will be blogging, it would be smarter to realize that the ones who get involved will encourage others to. And people that Fonda might not have reached, John or Michelle Phillips might have. It's about more voices. I say that all the time and I mean it.

If a celebrity wants to write on any topic that brings traffic to this new site, that's good news. There will be coverage there that is about politicians and legislation. And the environment and a living wage will be addressed there. By having a variety of people willing to contribute, the site will have a variety of issues it can cover.

People who haven't even read it (there's nothing up there yet) are condemning it and they don't even understand what Huffington's doing and why she's doing it.

She's trying to include more voices and she realizes that celebrities will attract people to the site.

This isn't an attempt to destroy some other web sites or bloggers. Nora Ephron will probably write there more often than she does the yearly or so op-ed for the Times, but she's not going to be a daily blogger. (If she would be, we'd all be better for it. And anyone who thinks otherwise may not have ever read her journalism.)

If Drew Barrymore wants to write about peace, she should. I'll read it. I'm sure it will make many of us think. Provided we're not screaming, "Not a real blogger! Celebrities shut up!"

I mean, isn't that a Laura what's her name book title? (I know her name, I'm just not in the mood to mention it.) Isn't that a tactic of the right?

More voices is always the answer. What Huffington's attempting to pull off (and my hopes are with her) is to provide a variety of voices speaking of issues that matter to them. She's not attempting to stage a coup on the blog world. There is a place for this (and I hope it succeeds).
I hope our members here will check out the site when it goes up.

I'm not threatened by the site. I'm hopeful it will build a huge membership quickly. Whether anyone likes it or not, we are a celebrity obsessed/driven community. So people who don't normally visit blogs will visit Huffington's.

And it will get people talking and thinking. I don't see how that's a bad thing.

(We'll also try to highlight people who blog there. And I won't be doing "disclosures" on that. We'll support the project and since I don't believe it's a money making business -- I could be wrong there -- I won't be doing "disclosures" if we highlight someone I know.)

In case anyone's forgotten, it took Cher calling C-Span to seriously raise the issue of the neglect of wounded troops returning to this country. Don't dismiss her as a Vegas diva or a Hollywood actress because that's what the right does. Cher is active and has been active. And she's aware of the world around her.

She has a right to comment.

I don't understand the panic. George Clooney has been outspoken, does he not have that right? Or does he just not have that right online? Is Russell Simmons just allowed to speak to reporters? He can't blog? Is that how it works?

I don't think so. Carly Simon and Russell Simmons have been working on the issue of drug sentencing. Are the people worrying about Huffington's site aware of that? Alyssa Milano was on the campaign trail speaking for John Kerry. Are the ones condemning Huffington's blog aware of that?

It's not a threat. It's an opportunity to get more voices out there and, because of who they are, there will be some curiousity (hopefully a great deal). The site's not going to hurt the blog world. The site may lead some people to seek out other blogs, it may raise their curiosity about what's available online. And apparently Gary Hart's involvement in the site (reported by Seelye in her article) has been overlooked as well.

Some of the comments on Huffington herself were troubling. I know some people are bothered by her choice of spirituality/worship. Huffington's spirituality is her own business. Hopefully, it nourishes her. I've found her to be a smart and caring person.

And the attacks are reminding me of the recall race when she was urged to drop out. That made no sense. She was the only one seriously addressing any issues with Ah-nuld, the only one not pulling punches. And it was obvious Bustamante was going bust -- obvious to anyone paying the slightest bit of attention. (Maybe news didn't travel east?) Davis was in trouble. Some of it wasn't his own doing but some of it was. Huffington was a strong candidate. No one was going to be forced to vote for her. You'd think that even people rooting for Bustamante would have been happy Huffington was in the race due to the fact that she was taking on Ahnuld and she was going to the people, not to Jay Leno and Tim Russert and anyone else who would toss her softballs.

But some sites wanted to question her. And for some reason that always means going personal.
"Do you know what she believes in?" (Her spirituality.) "Do you realize who she was married to?" "Do you know that she used to write right wing columns and books?" Over and over, the message was "I don't trust her!"

If someone's got some dynamite expose on Huffington, they should publish it. They could easily interest in Judith Regan in such a book. But the fact of the matter is that Huffington's a populist and that's where she's at today. If it was about "personal exposure," she had more outlets in the nineties.

If you've got a problem with the politics she's been practicing for some time now, you need to say so. But this, "I don't trust her!" nonsense that flairs up anytime she's seen as a threat (either in a race for office or someone's misguided belief that they're in a race with her for web visits) really reflects more on the people condemning her.

I like Arianna Huffington. I think she challenges us all to remember the debt we have to one another. I believe she's avoided dealing with the easy topics and addressed more complex ones -- ones that are easy to shy away from. I've found her genuine and I don't doubt or question her motives.

What she's attempting to do would be wonderful for the country and I'm surprised people aren't rushing in to say, "Thank you, Arianna!" They should be.

Her site will not be a threat to other blogs. It will be a resource providing more voices. That should be welcomed. She's provided a valuable resource to our nation for some time now. So why is it that it becomes "she has a funny accent" (she has a charming accent, my opinion) and "she's not really left the right" every time she steps out of the box that people want to place her in?

Maybe people were objecting to the language in Kit Seelye's article? I didn't pay too close attention to that. But maybe there was a problem there? If so, take it up with Seelye. Huffington didn't write the article.

When the site goes up, we'll provide a link to it (a permalink) and we'll highlight it.

Huffington will go on Pyramid or anywhere else she can go to try to get the message out. This is another avenue to pursue social justice. I'm not seeing any ulterior motives. The easiest thing for Huffington to do would be to lay by the pool. Instead she's being active (yet again).

So others are welcome to have their problem with her or being threatened by her, but, to me, this is another example of how Arianna Huffington is committed to change and doing more than her share. I applaud her. And if others are booing, they might need to take a look within. Huffington's attempting to plant seeds and further the cause of social justice. I don't see how there's a problem with that. If The Huffington Post is a success, it will only increase awareness and discussion.

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