News as Salvation

Arianna Huffington tells a Tufts audience that the explosion of new media strengthens democracy

Arianna Huffington with Jonathan Tisch

People want to be part of the story of their times, and the Internet has given them a powerful platform, Arianna Huffington, founder and editor-in-chief of the Huffington Post, told the more than 400 people who attended the ninth annual Edward R. Murrow Forum on Issues in Journalism at Tufts.

“We don’t just consume news, we share it, we pass it on, we comment, and this has already spawned revolutions and upended governments,” Huffington said during her talk on April 16 on the Medford/Somerville campus. “It has given people a form of expression they didn’t have before, and it has democratized information and communication.”

The hope that she could maximize the potential of this “golden age of news” inspired her to start the Huffington Post, an online news aggregator and blog, in 2005. It is what continues to drive its development, she said. The site attracts some 90 million unique visitors every month.

“What is happening is an explosion of millions of people bearing witness around the world,” she said. And while there is still a need for gatekeepers and editors to “place order on the chaos,” citizen journalists can co-exist alongside the best traditions of journalism, adding new voices and a wide range of stories and experiences, she said.

“The explosion of new media is really a salvation. It strengthens democracy, allowing citizens their voice in an unprecedented way,” she said.

Huffington is a nationally syndicated columnist, television broadcast commentator and author of 14 books, including most recently Thrive: The Third Metric to Redefining Success and Creating a Life of Well-Being, Wisdom and Wonder (Harmony, 2014). She is widely sought out for her expertise on new media, economics and current affairs.

Her remarks came in the form of a conversation with Jonathan M. Tisch, A76, a vice chair of the Tufts Board of Trustees and co-chair of the board of Loews Corporation and chairman of Loews Hotels. He asked if it is still possible for readers to discern what information on the Internet is valid and what should be ignored. That is “the snake in the garden,” Huffington said, adding that people need to learn “what are empty calories and what is a real meal.”

Research shows that the most-shared stories on the Huffington Post are ones about great compassion, ingenuity and generosity, as well as news that can make our lives better and less stressful, she said.

“I think there is something that makes us want to read the story of the homeless man who found $40,000 and then returned it,” she said. “In the way that Edward R. Murrow always admired everyday people and celebrated their thoughts of wisdom, I really believe that as a media company, we can share these stories of the good things that are happening.”

Huffington also stressed that while her site aggregates news from many sources—“I’ve promised my readers the best of what is on the Internet”—it uses seasoned journalists to report on issues such as youth unemployment, workplace burnout and the impact of new technologies. Huffington Post reporter David Wood won the 2012 Pulitzer Prize for national reporting for his “Beyond the Battlefield” series, which looked at the challenges severely wounded soldiers face when returning home from Afghanistan and Iraq. “This shows you can do good reporting from any platform,” she said.

The Internet platform is enriched, Huffington said, by the voices of readers who comment, share their stories or blog about their different perspectives and expertise.

“We welcome voices, both old and young, because there is no hierarchy,” she said. “You are the president of France or the president of Tufts University blogging next to a homeless teenager who feels she has something to say,” she said. “Voices that might otherwise be lost can be heard. This is our new reality.”

The Murrow Forum is sponsored by Tufts’ Communications and Media Studies Program in the School of Arts and Sciences, the Edward R. Murrow Center at the Fletcher School and the Tisch College of Citizenship and Public Service. Previous speakers have included Brian Williams, Katie Couric, Christiane Amanpour, Ted Koppel, Tom Brokaw, Dan Rather and Chris Matthews.

Gail Bambrick can be reached at

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