Why Is The Huffington Post Afraid of The Washington Post?

This week, NewsBusters and other sides noticed that after the death of Otto Warmbier, The Huffington Post edited, but did not take down a controversial article entitled “North Korea Proves Your White Male Privilege Is Not Universal.”

Washington Post media blogger Eric Wemple also grew interested in why the HuffPost would keep the Warmbier-bashing piece, when it unpublished a contributor arguing President Trump was right about the negatives of immigration in Sweden...as if that was more offensive. Here's what he found: the Huffington Post is terrible at returning phone calls from other media outlets.

Why is The Huffington Post afraid of The Washington Post? It's not like Wemple is a right-winger with a Make America Great Again hat. His wife works at Mother Jones.

Writer La Sha asserted Warmbier was the victim of white male privilege as it’s inculcated in America: “Every economic, academic, legal and social system in this country has for more than three centuries functioned with the implicit purpose of ensuring that white men are the primary benefactors of all privilege.” She even compared Warmbier to white male mass shooters.

Here’s how Wemple reported trying to get an answer out of HuffPost:

For days now, the Erik Wemple Blog has been attempting to engage HuffPost in a discussion about the piece. Lena Auerbuch Anderson, a spokeswoman for the site, emailed this statement: “HuffPost’s contributor platform operates an opinion site that hosts hundreds of items per day, and inevitably some are going to be more controversial than others,” reads the statement. “We enforce clear standards regarding hate speech and factual accuracy, but we’re not in the business of deleting posts because we disagree with the opinions in them.”

That contributor platform is a holdover from the days when HuffPost was the Huffington Post, the creation of mogul Arianna Huffington. The idea was to supplement the often-very-good original reporting of the Huffington Post with a come-one, come-all content vertical that delivered free content — and free traffic — from voices everywhere. It was a critical part of the founder’s utopia of very well-rested liberals improving the world one clickbaity blog post at a time, mixed with a managerial blind spot toward tawdry partnerships with mattress producers and ride-sharing companies.

Just last year, the outlet streamlined procedures for posting on the contributor platform, the better to boost the ranks of these folks from 100,000 to 1 million. A backlash ensued...

Now the contributors are fading. The blog hired Lydia Polgreen, an editor at The New York Times…..

And the contributor platform is closed to new entrants, as of this writing. We asked Anderson whether that status reflected any policy decision at HuffPost. We didn’t get a reply, though one source indicated that Polgreen “wants to build a mini-New York Times.” The New York Times lacks a freewheeling contributor network.

The Erik Wemple Blog would prefer to bag anonymous descriptions of Polgreen’s intentions in favor of input directly from her. Repeated appeals for an interview, however, went nowhere. With her background in mainstream media, though, Polgreen surely grasps the awkwardness of the contributor system that she has inherited. Why should her reporters have to deal with the fallout from a story that they had no role in generating? “Staffers aren’t thrilled when some controversial contributor piece gets intertwined with what the newsroom is trying to do,” says a HuffPost source.

It's fun to see an anonymous source inside the media. Perhaps if there were more stories quoting anonymous sources inside media outlets, they would get a sense of how that can seem like a great way to mischaracterized someone's thoughts or statements, or simply trash somebody with no consequences. 

Polgreen is somehow unwilling to talk to a fellow liberal at The Washington Post about this, but she did vaguely discuss the issue back in March on CNN’s Reliable Sources when they were discussing host Brian Stelter's favorite topic -- Fox News -- and he asked if the HuffPost had trouble separating news from opinion, or in their case, their full-time paid writers and the contributors who are unpaid: 

POLGREEN: Well, we try to be very clear about it. But, again, you know, we have contributors in our network. But we have to be very clear about the fact that people see things and they don't distinguish whether it's opinion or news. I've often said that at The New York Times, there was this tradition of having ragged right [text justification] on a news analysis piece rather than a justified right on a news piece. And we acted as if that with a clear signal to the reader that you're reading analysis and not straight news.

STELTER: We both used to work there and we both know that doesn't work. That's not enough.

POLGREEN: It doesn't work. And, you know, the confuse -- even though the op-ed page of The New York Times is far removed from the news pages, people -- if you read it in The New York Times, you read it in The New York Times. So, this is a much larger media literacy issue.

So why isn't this logic leading Polgreen to take down the piece slashing Warmbier? Because minority journalists won't take down a "white privilege" piece? By contrast, Wemple explained what HuffPost labored to take down:

For an example of when HuffPost does delete a contributor piece, please see this archived item from February. Contributor René Zografos argued that President Trump was right in his comments about the impact of immigration in Sweden. “It’s well known for Scandinavians and other Europeans that liberal immigration comes with drugs, rapes, gang wars, robbery and violence,” wrote Zografos. “Additional to that we see the respective nations cultures fading away, for good and for bad.” Also: “The truth is, that several European cities have huge immigration problems where even the police force is afraid to interfere in some locations in these cities. UK, France and several other European countries are changing rapidly with extreme quantity of immigration. I’m not saying immigration is only bad, but a lot of problems come with poor immigration policy, as consequences we get violence, terror and gangs.”

Does that stuff amount to hate speech or factual inaccuracies? A rep for HuffPost told the Daily Caller’s Peter Hasson back in February that the piece violated “our terms of use.” We’ve reached out to HuffPost in an attempt to determine why that piece triggered deletion, but not the Warmbier piece. We’ll update when we hear back.

In the meantime, laugh at the HuffPost if they complain the Trump White House isn't engaging enough with the press. 

Huffington Post Washington Post Erik Wemple Lydia Polgreen
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