A great number of people are flying their flags at half mast in the wake of the AOL-HuffPo merger/acquisition.
Word is that the phenomenon that Arianna Huffington and partner Kenny Lerer created in 2005 of a web newspaper featuring progressive, fair, and liberal journalism -- a place for legitimate investigation of issues and commentary -- has been killed, even massacred, by this 315 million-dollar deal.
Not only do thousands of comments on HuffPo and AOL reflect much mournful, angry despair in response to the deal. Many other news sites offer interpretation and analysis with nary a whole-hearted positive outlook in sight. (With the notable exceptions of Arianna, Kenny Lerer, Eric Hippeau, and Howard Fineman, senior political editor of HuffPost, as well as a smattering of people I will call "optimistic wait-and-seers").
Certainly, there are legitimate fears that all progressives have about conservative AOL sharing the power that could potentially impact content, censorship, and freedom of speech which we all enjoyed on Huffington Post. Absolutely, there are loads of people who know more than I do about the evils of corporate America, as well as the inner-workings of AOL. I stand to be educated.
The forecast of doom, however, is about fear, perhaps even educated guesses, but fear it is and not yet actual fact.
My morning email from the health blog, Natural News, opened today with these fears broadcast as fact, a daily practice in American news reporting.
"The Huffington Post was sold to AOL for $315 million yesterday, meaning the site, which was once the darling of independent media, is now clearly positioned as institutionalized media".
On the other hand, a friend of mine also forwarded me the more even-toned NPR iPAD App.
This article explains how AOL benefits from the merger, and how HuffPost "gets access to a whole new audience".
It concludes with the reminder of Arianna's impressive personal and political reinvention and the open question of what she will become.
In her announcement of the AOL/HuffPost merger, she states that the Huffington Post will be "traveling toward the same destination with the same goals", only "stepping off a fast-moving train and onto a supersonic jet." She adds that there will be "more emphasis on the growing of service and giving back in our lives".
The future of Arianna's deliverance has yet to be seen.
There is enormous speculation and doubt that AOL will be a fair, positive partner, even if Arianna's reach extends progressively way past the doubters' expectations.
One thing is certain: under the terms of the deal, Arianna will become editor-in-charge of all content at AOL.
This is big, because all content at AOL will inevitably have Arianna's attention, stamp and direction. She was a key champion for freedom of speech and criticizing the Bush administration, as well as consistently expressing social concerns that align with what progressives care about.
Can we trust that she has the integrity of meaning what she says?
It's tough, especially following the classic bait-and-switch of Obama's campaign, the empty promises of "change", which we saw vaporize and exposed as grains of genetically modified sand. But that's just me.
Here's why I believe Arianna.
First of all, I do not carry the belief that smart business acumen and wealth always amounts to selling out and corruption.
I suspect -- and this will not make me popular -- that there is much left-wing prejudice against wealth; indeed, misdirected angry energy toward those benignly wealthy rather than focusing on what to do about the poverty among us.
I am not talking about feeling at all okay with greedy, corrupt white-collar criminals or the organizations that align with and perpetuate such hideosity.
What I am saying is that there is justified fury and then there is the separate category of envy. To know the difference is freeing, and a large subject for another time. Perhaps this deal with AOL has unleashed a tidal wave of unconscious envy about Arianna's 315 million-dollar bonanza, even among the more politically awake.
There is the possibility that Arianna is positioning her journalistic frontier on behalf of progressive voices. Perhaps, also, in spite of her original agenda, political realities had been a corrosive agent of late, infecting the HuffPost integrity. In some ways, the partnership may be a force to correct this, as crazy as this may sound.
Reason number 2 to believe Arianna in her stated goal with AOL.
The experiment of collaborating with conservative America may bring about a "reincarnation," or comeback, of journalism.
Everyone on the progressive side of politics understands that television news is only entertainment, the "papers of record" have long ago left the building to hang out with Elvis, journalism has become loudly yellow and celebritized.
Let's see what Arianna & Co. can do to raise the mentality of rags like People magazine, even.
In other words, let's give Arianna a chance.
Bravo to her brilliant business abilities. This is a major coup for her and I applaud her.
May she use her win as an opportunity to enhance journalism, social intelligence, and justice.
She knows we're all watching for this. Let's wait and see.
Arianna is a smart cookie. I'm betting that she's a cookie who cares.