The Reading Room

The Huffington Post

Millionaire socialite Arianna Huffington may have married oil millionaire Michael Huffington, a family friend of the Bushes, but don’t hold this against her. She is extraordinarily smart. She moved to England at the age of 16 and attended Girton College at Cambridge University where in 1971 she was President of the Cambridge Union Society, the third woman to hold the position. She then went on to become a real darling of the media on both sides of the Atlantic. She’s been a regular panelist on BBC radio 4’s Any Questions as well as the US Daily Show with Jon Stewart. It was on this that she declared her support for John Kerry and famously said “When your house is burning down, you don’t worry about the remodeling.” But it was the launch of the Huffington Post liberal news website in 2005 that really made her name.

You might actually say that the history of political blogging might usefully be divided into the periods pre- and post-Huffington. Pre Huffington bloggers operated in a spirit of underdog solidarity. They hated the mainstream media – and the feeling was mutual. Then Huffington came along and recruited professional columnists and celebrity bloggers. Huffington’s success made the first generation of bloggers look like two-bit prospectors panning for nuggets in shallow creeks before the big mining operations moved in. In the era pre-Huffington, big media companies ignored the web, or feared it; post-Huffington they started to treat seriously. Three years on and Rupert Murdoch is now looking to own many of the news sites that have followed in her footsteps. I like her because she has shown that a bit of marketing savvy and deep pockets can actually be a real force for good in the media. She is showing the rebels how to fight against the empire.

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