That means HuffPo bloggers benefit from a large audience for their work and from a team of moderators who filter out the flames and personal attacks that constitute so much of the online commenting. But they don't get paid.
"We pay our reporters, we pay our editors, we pay anyone who works to report the news. But we don't pay anyone who blogs their opinions," she said.
In this media transition period, original reporting is being done on blogs (such as the politics blog at sfbg.com), that line isn't so clear. But it does single out the important role that professional, full-time journalists play in the media landscape.
She said HuffPo now has six editors and writers on the payroll in Washington, DC, on top of the 50 employees (which includes technical, administrative, and advertising staff) in New York. And the outfit is in the process of launching an investigative reporting fund and story funding service, with models similar to Spot.us and Propublica.org. As Huffington said, "We're all basically trying to reinvent journalism."
But HuffPo's model of journalism isn't really that radical. The notion that reporters are allowed to have opinions, that news outlets can take on causes, push issues and represent the public interest, has been a part of the nation's media landscape since before the American Revolution. The technology that allows almost anyone to publish a blog, and allows the public to comment on and challenge what's written, is only a modern version of a long tradition. Small printing presses and small publishers with influential pamphlets date back to before Thomas Paine helped spark the revolution with Common Sense. And before the news media got huge, reporters and editors were part of the communities they covered and heard from their readers every day.
In many ways, the media pioneers these days are looking at reestablishing the best roots of the American press. The only thing missing at this point is the business model that, in 2009, works well enough to pay for it.