Leonard Downie Jr, the former executive editor of the Washington Post, has attacked online news aggregators including the Huffington Post as “parasites living off journalism produced by others”. Delivering the James Cameron Memorial Lecture at London’s City University last night, Downie criticised online aggregators for filling their websites “with news, opinion, features, photographs and video that they continuously collect – some would say steal – from other national and local news sites”. The Huffington Post was founded in 2005 by socialite and columnist Arianna Huffington and earlier this year overtook the New York Times website in terms of traffic.
But Downie questioned how the blogging and aggregation site got this traffic. “Revealing photos of and stories about entertainment celebrities account for much of the highly touted web traffic to the Huffington Post… Though they purport to be a new form of journalism, these aggregators are primarily parasites living off journalism produced by others,” said Downie, who edited the Washington Post for 17 years until 2008 and is now the paper’s vice-president at large.