I'm excited by the new venture: as long as HuffPost and AOL's shared vision imagines creative contrarian content, this site will flourish. But that will depend as much on the community as it does the leadership.
Candidly, when I first got the HuffPost-AOL news, my thoughts turned to another high-profile media marriage: Comcast-NBC and the temporally if not causally related cancellation of Countdown with Keith Olbermann. Naturally, my first worry was this: will HuffPo's populist voices be Olbermanned by corporatist interests at AOL? But I scratched my head reading dozens of comments from folks who plan to leave HuffPost in protest of what they fear could happen in this regard rather than fighting for the site to retain its populist integrity. I'm blogging because I'm staying.
Let's consider our history. Arianna's politics have changed but not her contrarian DNA. She evolved past the left-right paradigm long ago to a "beyond left and right" approach to politics in "Third World America." Ahead of the post-partisan curve, Arianna moved the HuffPost emphasis from traditional partisan appeals to more organic policy, impact, and movement questions that challenge Democrats as much as Republicans. She -- and we -- turned a $1 million investment into a $315 million success, proving that questioning authority is good politics and good capitalism.
Meanwhile, the community's politics are diverse and trending populist. There are more progressives on HuffPost, but we are given no quarter by the community -- we are given a forum and we are held accountable. I'm sure readers will prove that in your responses to this post as you have every other time.
The leadership can help build trust by responding to dark fears with sunshine. One key test of this new HuffPost-AOL marriage will be whether we read about AOL's corporate practices with the same sunlight that HuffPost has regularly asked of other institutions from media to banking to government entities. That alone would be transformative on our constant quest for Truth 2.0. (And yes I'll be watching to see where they post this essay in order to determine whether they welcome the question).
So before you leave here in protest of what you think might happen, consider the role you could play in retaining the vision of creative contrarian content, and keep lending your voice if you want Huffpost to retain its.