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Why the Huffington Post Can't Replace The New York Times

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Michael Wolff writes on the Huffington Post that it is a "shibboleth" that the New York Times is important for the good of journalism and notes that an evolving piece of conventional wisdom is that "the Huffington Post is the new New York Times."

I know Huffington Post. Huffington Post is a friend of mine. I write for Huffington post. But, the Huffington Post is no New York Times -- nor does it attempt to be.

The idea that the Huffington Post, or the explosion of interesting internet news or blogging sites, can replace journalistic institutions like the New York times or other newspapers or dinosaurs of the mainstream media truly misunderstands the web, newspapers, journalism and the serious threat posed to democracy if the news gathering institutions fail.

I really do love the Huffington Post. It does a superb job packaging, filtering and choosing the news (albeit with a liberal slant), and is one of the best places around for commentary and analysis. And it sometimes breaks news, too. But it is not primarily a news gathering organization -- as a look at the Huffington Post home page will reveal.

On the Huffington Post's home page, Thursday around 4:15 pm EST, I counted 29 news headlines (I may have missed some because they update the page so frequently). Of those, 9 were Associated Press stories, 11 linked directly to stories reported by mainstream media outlets (New York Times, Washington Post, CNN etc), 3 were written by Huffington Post staffers but were basically summaries of what they'd read in mainstream media outlets, 4 were from Huffington Post staffers but based on video clips or statements in the public domain (e.g. Nancy Pelosi's press conference, John Conyers' "Dear Colleague" letter). One was original HuffPost analysis that was excellent but involved no new reporting and one I couldn't quite classify (they reported, based on Lisa Bonet's official fan site, that her son would be named Nakoa-Wolf Mankauapo Namakaeha Momoa).

In other words, of the 29 stories, 23 were created by or based entirely on journalism by mainstream media outlets. The others were based on public domain (watching public press conferences or TV shows). None were based on original, gum-shoe reporting.

Again, I mean this as no criticism of the Huffington Post or, for that matter the Drudge Report, which performs a similar function. They do break news, too (including some big stories, like Obama's "bitter" gaffe). And spotting and filtering the news is a valuable function. What's more, they keep mainstream media on its toes.

But Huffington Post most often relies on the reporting done by the much reviled MSM. Obviously, we need the Huffington Post and the New York Times.

Steven Waldman is Editor-in-Chief of Beliefnet.com (a new media concoction) and formerly worked in old media dinosaurs, Newsweek and US News & World Report.