Dumenco: Thanks for apology, but unethical aggregation is widespread at Huffington Post

Ad Age
After a Huffington Post editor apologized for a post that cannibalized something he wrote for Ad Age, Simon Dumenco responds with a "thank you" and a big asterisk. Dumenco writes that the Huffington writer who was suspended for the post should get an apology, too, because she was scapegoated for practicing a form of aggregation "long practiced, condoned and encouraged by Huffington Post editorial management." He describes a Huffington summary of a Playboy interview with James Franco, for example, that "lifts so many verbatim quotes from it that it all but preempts the reader's desire to click through and visit the original source." A review of Huffington posts, Dumenco writes, would reveal many, many more examples of the sort of aggregation that Executive Business Editor Peter Goodman said are unacceptable.

"Aspirational standard
" for aggregation: The Washington Post's Erik Wemple says that Huffington writer Amy Lee "sort of" ran afoul of guidelines on aggregation, according to interviews with current and former employees:

When summarizing a news story from another outlet, staffers are supposed to round out the presentation with contextual links to other content in the field — to videos, podcasts, maybe a pdf in a pinch. Linking to three outlets is the goal.

But here’s the thing about the Huffington Post: Whatever management directives or linking goals or managerial guidance there might be, the mishmash of good intentions gets plowed over by speed and volume, which are the property’s stock in trade.

Throwing stones: Adweek showed its interest in aggregation practices by interviewing Goodman, but what about Newser, founded by AdWeekMedia Editorial Director Michael Wolff? Tom Foremski writes that Newser "summarizes the content of top news articles to such an extreme degree that it sucks out all of the value of the original."

A little respect: "Instead of treating aggregation like a link is a favor," writes Staci Kramer, "Huffington (and others) need to respect the contribution these sources make to their sites."

  • Steve Myers

    Steve Myers was the managing editor of Poynter.org until August 2012, when he became the deputy managing editor and senior staff writer for The Lens, a nonprofit investigative news site in New Orleans.


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