Commentary

The HuffPo's Hiring of NYT's Peter Goodman Is More Significant Than You Think

If you aren't in journalism, you may have no idea how big this is: but it's huge, absolutely huge that The New York Times' economics reporter Peter Goodman is joining the Huffington Post, in a shift that was announced yesterday. Trust me, in the macro-sense of the word, this is much more important than the news that Howard Fineman just left the decimated Newsweek for the HuffPo. That's merely a story of a guy who saw his ship sinking and was very aware that, in boating terms, Newsweek is a dingie; the HuffPo --  which now compares favorably to nytimes.com in terms of traffic -- is a luxury yacht.

The Goodman shift is the more important move of the two because of why Goodman says he's leaving. And it gets to the heart of how social media has changed the news business. He told The Washington Post's Howard Kurtz: ""For me it's a chance to write with a point of view. It's sort of the age of the columnist. With the dysfunctional political system, old conventional notions of fairness make it hard to tell readers directly what's going on. This is a chance for me to explore solutions in my economic reporting."

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He notes that, as a Times journalist, he had to struggle to keep his point of view out of it, even when it was valid -- that is, based on facts and figures rather than gut reactions and biases. To appear objective, he went through "almost a process of laundering my own views, through the tried-and-true technique of dinging someone at some think tank to say what you want to tell the reader." 

Boy, have I been there, and boy, does it sometimes feel like a waste of time -- which is to say nothing negative about think tanks or -- or, in my case, online industry experts. They are the people who help form the knowledge base that's necessary to have an opinion worth reading. It's just that in the expansive world of social media -- particularly, of course, on blogs -- there is more room for more intelligent people to say what they really think.

Let the official parties regurgitate the news as they need to, and let the people and institutions involved make their official, canned statements to the media -- but what most people really want to know is what people in-the-know think it means. And that's where people covering beats throughout the country, from sports to digital media, add value to the information glut.

As social media has gained momentum, notions of what journalism is, and isn't, have led to an imbalance that news like the Goodman shift are helping rectify. Years ago, bloggers sitting in the basement in their pajamas were empowered by technology to publish their opinions. Meanwhile, many of the people with the most access to the movers and shakers behind stories were prohibited from saying what they really thought by old definitions of what journalism is. Nothing against pajama bloggers -- I've been one -- but in the hierarchy of people the rest of us could benefit from reading, I'd usually choose the journalist with access to both insiders and WordPress over someone who isn't as able to get close to the details.

While the simple headline of the HuffPo's hire this week is "Print Reporters Go Online," to me it's more a matter of mindset. Goodman hasn't so much gone from print to the Web as he has from an older notion of what journalism is to a newer one.

12 comments about "The HuffPo's Hiring of NYT's Peter Goodman Is More Significant Than You Think ".
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  1. Jeffrey Burke from Marketing, September 23, 2010 at 10:30 a.m.

    We're in a lot of trouble as a society if journalists find the journalism process too tiring and would rather just spout off opinion....that whole painful process of expunging opinion *IS* journalism.

  2. Jeffrey Burke from Marketing, September 23, 2010 at 10:40 a.m.

    "Meanwhile, many of the people with the most access to the movers and shakers behind stories were prohibited from saying what they really thought by old definitions of what journalism is."

    I'm sorry I need to say this is a terrible terrible sentence. The tools for journalists may have changed and some of the rules may evolve, but you're talking about the fundamental wall of News vs. Opinion and you're suggested it *should* be blurry - because technology allows it?

  3. Thom Kennon from Free Radicals, September 23, 2010 at 10:46 a.m.

    Yeah, the model for his career journey is already a well-established one, in both offline as well as online media. He could've gone from being a Peter Goodman - economics beat journalist - to a Paul Krugman - economics beat columnist.

    This is what he did, he just switched pubs. (Perhaps because Krugman was in his career pathway.)

    Also, I haven't seen either of their rate cards or Omniture stats, but I would be VERY surprised if HuffPo is pulling down anything remotely close to the advertiser revenue NYTimes.com is. At least not yet.

    @tkennon | bigevidence.blogspot.com

  4. Andrew Moss from ESMZone.com, September 23, 2010 at 10:46 a.m.

    It is sad that traditional major media outlets no longer value jounalism as has been practiced. Hopefully, new media outlets will take their place enabling a more candid publication of events and news. In the interim, seeing respected jounalists explore opportunities to further public discussion is a good thing. Like it or not, we are in a period of transition from what was to what will be.

  5. Andrew Moss from ESMZone.com, September 23, 2010 at 10:52 a.m.

    It is sad that traditional major media outlets no longer value jounalism as has been practiced. Hopefully, new media outlets will take their place enabling a more candid publication of events and news. In the interim, seeing respected jounalists explore opportunities to further public discussion is a good thing. Like it or not, we are in a period of transition from what was to what will be.

  6. Bill Walker from Integrated Media Cooperative, September 23, 2010 at 11:07 a.m.

    I hope he is going to label it opinion and not news or journalism. This is the problem much of the media is facing as well as the public. It is easy for anyone with an opinion to "publish" and all too often the public perceives it as fact and news. That's why the fringe on either side of the isle gets the headlines and the silent majority goes unheard or cared about by those who are making the laws.

    IMHO

  7. Gretchen Scheiman from L5 Direct LLC, September 23, 2010 at 11:18 a.m.

    This is huge, and a mark of the rise of "citizen journalism" and the value of opinion that Jarvis and others have been talking about for years. What I wonder is, what tools will Goodman (and his peers) develop for readers so that we can try to separate "gut feel" from "informed opinion" from "data-supported fact". Without such tools, I'm not sure this new journalism has added much value beyond the old version, at least to readers.

  8. Oliver Maletz from OMD, September 23, 2010 at 11:27 a.m.

    As mentioned already, there's a vast difference between "news" and "opinion" and each should be labeled as to their intent. Both are valued contributions to a reader. People with shared opinions will always gather and popular and/ or controversial opinions will always reach the most eyeballs. Important is there remains a sufficient base of news detailing corroborated facts allowing readers to develop their own opinions. So kudos to the NYT for sticking to traditional values and I look forward to hearing the opinions of trusted and experienced journalist. Just so long as I know it's "their" opinion.

  9. Julie Hill from julie a hill and assoc, September 23, 2010 at 5:38 p.m.

    Huff Post is actually paying someone?

  10. Donald Frazier from OneVideo Technology, September 23, 2010 at 8:27 p.m.

    Leaving a publication with high perceived credibility to join one with much less seems like a poor way to find, tell, and drive home the truth. Unless, of course, you're mainly interested in talking to people who already agree with you.

  11. Jerry Foster from Energraphics, September 24, 2010 at 2:22 a.m.

    The Times has fallen due to bad journalism.

    I am missing the point of some of the commenters. Are they seriously saying the New York Times wasn't an opinion piece via the way "news" was written (whether a key statement or point was put in or put out)? I strongly recommend the book "Journalistic Fraud: How the New York Times Distorts the News".

    That book isn't "right wing" so much as it clearly points out that the Times has had a poliitcal agenda for 50+ years at least, which is present in their "news" stories. This cannot be denied (although I just noticed some agenda-driven commenters at Amazon gave the book one star after *not* reading it).

    I've had the Times butcher stories about men's rights before because the editors held the radical feminist position and didn't want the other side of the story to get any exposure at all.

    They have been getting a bit better recently now that they may be starting to realize that unbiased news should have been what they were supposed to be giving all along.

  12. Ellen Lebowitz from Ellen Lebowitz Press, September 28, 2010 at 8:06 p.m.

    Journalism is supposed to be just that - credentialed journalists reporting the news.

    As far as I can tell, Huff Post stories are opinion. Not news.

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