Column: The strange new bedfellows of online news

Break out the champagne glasses, AOL and The Huffington Post are getting hitched.

AOL Inc. announced Monday that it intends to acquire the online news site for $315 million.

For those of you who do not know The Huffington Post is an example of media that grew in response to corporate ownership.

It began in 2005 with a group of ambitious bloggers creating a variety of content about everything from entertainment to politics.

Eventually contributors began doing original reporting, so that by 2009 President Obama called on a reporter from the Huffington Post, the first Internet publication at a presidential press conference.

The Huffington Post has been able to create a huge online community of readers who comment, contribute and keep up a global conversation.

However, this merger is just one more example of media convergence into corporate ownership, except now it is online.

This is hardly any different than what has been going on at newspapers for the past 20 years.

Everyone has been going on about how this merger is a huge surprise and what great things the two visionaries can do together, but to me it just seems like a step back.

The Huffington Post is a great example of positive online innovation and AOL revenue has been falling recently.

Now it just seems like the combination of these two powerhouses will create another Internet news vacuum.

Websites like Google News are picking up articles and reposting them without paying those who produced the news anything. It is basically the news industry’s version of Napster.

The Internet is sucking up content from all over the news universe like some sort of digital black hole and spitting out the regurgitated remains for a free online information buffet.

These are all worst-case scenarios though.

Maybe the merger will not follow in the footsteps of previous corporate media combinations that have failed to do the one thing their supposed to; get relevant news to their audience.

In recent years, AOL has also been making ventures into the news industry by creating the hyper-local online Patch websites as well as Seed, a citizen journalist venture.

I suppose the good things to come out of this is the possibility the new Huffington Post/AOL Inc. project succeeding and creating the digital template for the newsmakers that follow.

And right now, that is what we are all looking for- a way to make it online.

Emily Steele is a senior journalism major. She can be reached at 581-2812

or [email protected]