Yesterday, in describing the sale of Huffington Post to AOL I concluded this way:
Its true that AOL will give Arianna Huffington’s progressive news organization a wider berth both nationally and worldwide. But be aware, the expanded progressive reach created by the Huffington sale is only a small part of the story. It is the small, hyper-local property, PATCH.com that will eventually be known as the big part of the deal.
Today Huffington told Washington Post blogger Greg Sargent, that PATCH.com is indeed a major part of her 2012 Election plans.
Huffington described her plan as “Jeffersonian,” and she says she plans to use AOL’s Web site Patch.com, a network of sites that cover local news at the granular level, as a vehicle for expansion modeled on HuffingtonPost’s 2008 “Off the Bus” coverage. “Off the Bus” made a splash when candidate Barack Obama was caught on tape suggesting that economically distressed voters are “bitter” and “cling to guns or religion,” and if Huffington has her way, she will oversee a massive increase in such coverage next year.“We are going to dramatically accelerate this in 2012,” said Huffington, who discussed the idea on a conference call yesterday with Patch.com employees. “We will have thousands and thousands of people covering the election. Covering the Republicans. Covering the Democrats. Just being transparent about it.”Huffington — who said high-level editorial staffing decisions were still being worked out — also provided the first clear glimpse of her plan to graft the HuffPo vision on to the AOL infrastructure. “Patch already has professional editors,” she said, adding that freelancers across the country would work with those editors “the way that the Huffington Post pairs young reporters with established editors. It’s something we can also do at the local level.”
Although she claims “bi-partisanship” it is left to be seen whether Huffington, who built her business on being a progressive outlet would allow “Covering the Republicans. Covering the Democrats. Just being transparent about it” under her regime.
One person who has doubt about it is Matt Lewis, one of the best columnists at AOL’s Politics Daily who announced today that he was leaving the company because of the politics of his “new boss” Arianna Huffington.
I’ve met Ms. Huffington exactly once — on the set of “Nightline’s” election night coverage. She could not have been kinder. Additionally, I have even authored an article or two for her site (on tech issues) over the years. This is all to say that I have no personal issue with Ms. Huffington, and that I am not a “Huff-hater.”
However, writing a guest post is different from working for someone, and it occurs to me that AOL has vastly underestimated the public perception (I would argue the accurate impression) that Huffington is a far-left liberal.
Obviously, I am more than happy to write for a mainstream news outlet where differing opinions are allowed to flourish, but I am less comfortable with the notion of being permanently affiliated with an overtly left-of-center (sometimes activist) outlet.
As a conservative (albeit, an admittedly iconoclastic one), it is vital that I maintain the freedom to call them like I see them.
Now imagine that overtly left-of-center (sometimes activist) outlet running the news in 800 small communities. As even national politics is grass-roots oriented, Ms Huffington may very well have a significant impact in 2012 and elections to come.