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Amy Lee Firing by Huffington Post Exposes Hypocrisy When it Comes to Site's News-Stealing Business Model

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Mon, Jul 11, 2011 at 4:01 PM
click to enlarge Really Arianna?
  • Really Arianna?

Correction: A Huffington Post rep emailed us not to say we were wrong about its news-stealing ways. Rather, he says writer Amy Lee was not fired, as was reported here and elsewhere. We misinterpreted HuffPo's statement that it has "zero tolerance" for news theft and that the writer has been "suspended indefinitely." Apparently it has some tolerance for content heists (as we argue, below), and the indefinite has its limits. Read on. Also, see the latest strike-back by Simon Dumenco, the AdAge columnist who originally pointed out the aggressive aggregation by HuffPo.

It only took us a matter of seconds to find a story on the Huffington Post's Los Angeles page that is based on the work of another news organization and contains no link to said organization.

In its piece on a proposal for a SoCal breakaway state the Huffington Post seems to rely mostly on a Los Angeles Times piece (with a little AP thrown in for good measure). But there were no links that we could find.

Now, that's not unusual in blogland (ahem). What is unusual, or perhaps unseemly, is that the Post today claimed that it has ...

" ... zero tolerance for this sort of conduct," according to a statement by HuffPo executive business editor Peter Goodman, sent to Romenesko.

This after a business writer, Amy Lee, was caught liberally rewriting an AdAge article (six grafs or so) before linking. So what?

click to enlarge Amy Lee. - HUFFPO
  • HuffPo
  • Amy Lee.

Goodman continued:

We have made a very substantial investment in original reporting here, bringing in dozens of new writers in recent months. And while we will continue to curate the news for our audience, what occurred in this instance is entirely unacceptable and collides directly with the values that are at work in our newsroom.

Really now, Peter. Seems to us that every other time we tune in to HuffPo we see such aggressive aggregation, e.g. other peoples' stories rewritten with substantially buried links toward the end.

Now, that's a staple in blogland. Love it or hate it. Let's debate it by saying it's a prominent model and we all do it. We've been the beneficiary of HuffPo aggregation, and we're fine with it.

But let's not bullshit our way out of it and claim that it has no part in the business when in fact the Huffington Post built its $300 million ass mostly on this kind of aggregation.

In fact, Gawker gets an ex-HuffPo writer to say that the aggressive aggregation is the company model:

That is what we were taught and told to do at HuffPost. Arianna and the higher ups made a decision to stop linking out directly as much and rewrite stories "the way the AP does." They even hired people specifically to rewrite other people's work. Whenever they get caught they just blame an underling. These poor kids right out of school who have no experience get told to do XY and Z and then get punished for doing it.

And it gives other examples of HuffPo's liberal usage of others' reportage.

It's unconscionable for the HuffPo to have build itself up via other news org's reporting and then burn kids for towing the company line (and then, on top of all that, being dishonest about it).

No wonder kids think the corporate world sucks.

[@dennisjromero/djromero@laweekly.com]

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