Wow. Has it really been 10 years since Arianna Huffington launched her website The Huffington Post?
In thinking about this blog post commemorating the 10-year anniversary of The Huffington Post, I had to pause and think a moment about exactly where I was and what I was doing 10 years ago.
The answer to the first part of my reflection was easy. I was in New York contemplating writing my first book about my almost eight years as political advisor, personal lawyer, and draft speechwriter to Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.
The geography of my personal life, however, was overshadowed by much more important events. In popular music, for example, the artist Common's hit rap song "Testify," Kanye West and Jamie Foxx's "Gold Digger," Mariah Carey's "We Belong Together," Alicia Keys' "Unbreakable," and songs by Missy Elliott, Kelly Clarkson, and Gwen Stefani dominated radio playlists. Many of these songs kept me out late, dancing at a lot of different places.
And who can forget 2005's Best Picture winner, Million Dollar Baby, directed by Clint Eastwood and starring Hilary Swank and Morgan Freeman?
It was against this cultural landscape that Arianna started The Huffington Post. Equally important, however, were those significant events that shaped the political landscape 10 years ago: the commencement of President George W. Bush's second term, Hurricane Katrina in New Orleans and the unprecedented weak response of the Bush administration to this catastrophe, North Korea's admission that it had nuclear weapons, and Mahmoud Abbas' election victory in Palestine. And yes, it may be hard to believe, but in 2005 Israel voluntarily removed its troops and settlements from Gaza and part of the West Bank.
The defining technology phenomena, however, were the Internet and the advent of social media. There were lots of smart people in the world and in the United States at that time. Many were aware of the Internet and the rise of social media. However, it is sometimes said that "smart people are a dime a dozen." At the end of the day, so to speak, it's not how smart you are but what innovations you can contemplate and initiate that reflect and manifest your "smartness" in real time.
Thus, "smart" is a complimentary but inadequate descriptor for Arianna. It offers, by itself, a limited consideration of her unique, innovative, and intrinsic brilliance. I don't need to repeat ad nauseam what is known by so many people who know anything about Arianna's journey in pursuit of personal excellence.
Born in Greece, at an early age she had her sights set on attending Cambridge University, one of the most prestigious educational institutions in the UK and the world. She excelled as a student, becoming the captain of the legendary debating team at Cambridge, etc., etc.
Yes, Arianna is an innovative and intrinsically brilliant person. These qualities, and an apparent business and organizational discipline, have enabled her to successfully position The Huffington Post in the growing mainstream of Internet media. Without meaningful and quality content, however, having a 24/7 online newspaper would be just another example of an interesting new application of the Internet.
Many years ago the early acquirers of cable television franchises quickly came to understand that what was important was not the number of channels they had at their disposal or the estimated number of "homes passed" but the content they could provide on those channels. At the end of the day, program content was king. The name of the game on the Internet today is also "content, content, content," and the diversity of your delivery systems on social media.
Therefore, the hallmark of the success of The Huffington Post's is the magnitude and diversity of its content. I -- and, I assume, other writers -- quickly came to recognize that The Huffington Post provides us with an opportunity to reach a broad cross-section of social media users, 24/7 on the Internet, beyond the limitations of print media.
On a personal note, The Huffington Post has provided me with the opportunity to share with a whole new generation information about the legacy of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. Many of them know his name. However, in the absence of periodic references to him by others, like me in my blog posts, such readers would not know or understand that Dr. King was the 20th century's preeminent apostle of nonviolent civil disobedience for social justice. He was committed to the pursuit of personal excellence and the realization of equal opportunities for all persons in our nation.
Assassinated at age 39 in Memphis, Tennessee, in April 1968, Dr. King would have been 76 when Arianna launched The Huffington Post, had he lived.
Under Arianna's leadership, The Huffington Post has developed into and become one of the 21st century's most significant exemplars of the successful use of the ubiquitous technology of the Internet.
Arianna knows so well, as I am sure those who started The Huffington Post with her did, that every day she is engaged in a fierce competition in the Internet's marketplace of ideas. The more content and points of view that The Huffington Post can bring to this marketplace of ideas, the more successful it will be. This assumes, of course, that the online articulation of those ideas is consistent with the highest form of journalistic excellence, as is the case.
So my warmest 10th-anniversary congratulations to Arianna Huffington.
Those who follow my periodic blog posts know that this is my shorthand way of saying, "Hallelujah! Arianna is a bad sistah!"
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