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UPDATE: Arianna responds.

Dear Arianna,

I’m sending up the Bat Signal for you. We miss you, we need you — the old you, the political you — especially now, as the nation faces nothing less than a crisis of democracy. It seems your ambition these days is to become the ersatz Oprah. You’re telling us to thrive and sleep. No, Arianna, you should be telling America to worry and wake up!

When you started Huffington Post more than a decade ago in the run-up to Barack Obama’s election, I wasn’t happy with your harsh criticism of Hillary Clinton. But I was glad for your voice in holding media and Republicans accountable and for the platform you created to bring out the voices of smart, sensible, reasoned, civilized, and prominent people even when they disagreed with you.

As a journalist, I am glad that in the meantime, you have built newsrooms around the world and hired smart people to run them. I remember when media people wondered why you — Queen Blogger — were hiring reporters and you said it was because their reporting gets more attention. So brava for that. But I also have to wonder whether along the way we have lost something of the old, original Huffington Post — and Arianna Huffington.

Perhaps I am just lamenting the loss of the blog culture, attitude, worldview, and independence especially in this election season and I am hanging that on you. Blogs were dismissed as the rantings of the pajama-clad but you gave them respect and took on their voice. Even The New York Times started blogs — until it started killing them off. Now the voice of the outsiders — that is, the voice of the people — is everywhere. Indeed, isn’t this the election of the alleged outsiders? Doesn’t everyone want to be an outsider now that everyone hates the Establishment? No, the revolution will not be televised. It won’t be blogged, either. Who’d have guessed it would be tweeted — and not by #occupywallstreet but instead by @realdonaldtrump? God help us.

You know, Arianna, that you have a tendency to grab onto a good line and repeat it. Back in the day, I remember when you said often that journalists exhibit attention deficit disorder while bloggers suffer from obsessive compulsive disorder. Reporters report a story and think they’re done and then move onto the next story. Squirrel!

Bloggers, on the other hand, are attack dogs. When they sink their teeth into ankle of a bad guy, they don’t let go. That is what we still need today: Arianna as alpha dog in a pack of bloodhounds that will stay on the trail of every Donald Trump lie and demagoguery; every TV host who fawns over him; each reporter who fails to challenge his every incomplete and nonsensical and bigoted answer — and do the same for every Republican candidate, not to mention every member of the Senate now vowing to constipate the Constitutional process of nominating a Supreme Court Justice.

I think I know what you’ll say. First, you have reporters to do that. Yes but it’s not the same as you and your Rolodex dogging issues and idiots. Am I saying that reporting itself is becoming commiditized? Maybe I am.

Second, you’ll point me to the footnote that appears on every HuffPost story that mentions Donald Trump:

Editor’s note: Donald Trump is a serial liar, rampant xenophobe, racist, misogynist, birther and bully who has repeatedly pledged to ban all Muslims — 1.6 billion members of an entire religion — from entering the U.S.

That’s amusing. But it’s as if you tried to boil yourself into a reduction you can drip onto every story to bring the essence of Arianna into HuffPost’s reporting. Sorry, but that doesn’t cut it; it’s insufficient. As Marco Rubio teaches us all, repetition itself is not a substitute for originality and effort. No, you need to shame every journalist who is not reporting these facts about Trump every time they mention his name.

When I ran into you on the conference circuit recently and told you I missed the political you over the new Oprah you, your response was to ask why you can’t be both. I think the answer is in your own posts: roundups and sleep and no polemics. Besides, there already is an Oprah on HuffPost. Two, in fact. More than enough. But there’s no one quite like you in the realm of political organizing and commentary today. Others — Ezra Klein and Vox, Josh Marshall and TPM, Bill Maher on HBO, and others — fulfill their roles. But yours was unique. We need it back.

When we met, you also challenged me to write about how journalism is abrogating its responsibility to report intelligently on this election. I did as ordered because you must be obeyed; that’s your power. But that’s just a drop in the bucket. You can do so much more. Take this as the day-old Valentine that it is, Arianna. We need the old, political you back.

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Written by

Blogger & prof at CUNY’s Newmark J-school; author of Geeks Bearing Gifts, Public Parts, What Would Google Do?, Gutenberg the Geek

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