A friend of mine wrote me asking why I’d suggested on Twitter that people stop reading the Huffington Post, saying that the political reporting is still really strong and important. This is what I wrote in response:
Yeah, so maybe I got a little short in that tweet, but it’s hard to fit detailed reasoning into 140 characters -- it was mostly just a frustration vent. I clearly hit emergency levels re: HuffPo, which seems to happen too often.
Agreed: a lot of the political reporting is good. The editorial is awful, though. For whatever progress is made by the clear, insightful reporting done by the site’s fine political reporters is deeply undercut by the way it’s presented, with 5,678 point type headlines manufacturing outrage and sensation over every little thing that comes across their desk. Also: the constant feed of ugly, demeaning celebrity-worship-perpetuating trash that seems to make up most of the site’s front page is fucking neanderthal. And the fact it’s supposedly the flagship e-rag for the left (which I think many people believe) is only undermining the real left, the left that I know, for whom the bar is high and care, thoughtfulness, and intelligence is the real gold standard.
But that ain’t the least of it. The most awful thing about that site is its science reporting. Most egregious: its science reporting when it comes to autism. The fact that they give a platform to Jenny McCarthy and her out of touch anti-vaccine screeds is pretty unconscionable in a day and age when the the autism-vaccine link has been completely debunked and whooping cough cases are on the rise in affluent, left leaning communities. Communities who likely read the Huffington Post.
This is the story that got me going this morning, and I hesitate to link to it because I suspect that the bigger reason why HuffPo publishes salacious, misleading, and poorly-vetted stories is to court controversy and up their click-throughs or whatever (which is awful, too): http://www.huffingtonpost.com/franco-antonello/for-the-friends-of-andrea_b_1911321.html
I’m sympathetic to the writer; he seems to be writing with the best of intentions. But as a fellow parent of a kid on the autism spectrum, of a kid who does listen to how his disability is represented in the media, I have very little patience for people who write about autism the way this guy does -- and very little patience for the outlets who publish it. Not only does the writer make an off-the-cuff suggestion that vaccines cause autism, but he equates “deadly diseases” such as HIV to autism, which is awful. Language like that is not only harmful to the autistic community, it spreads bad information to the public at large. It’s irresponsible journalism. To publish it is irresponsible editorial work. And unfortunately, that’s sadly representative of a lot of the HuffPo’s science and autism coverage.
But that’s the thing: The HuffPo has made it their MO to barrage readers with content content content without having much of a thought to what sort of harmful misinformation they might be dispensing. So that’s why I encourage not reading it.
There you go. Sorry to bog your inbox with my rant. Hope all is well with you -- and keep up the good work!
A version of this letter was originally published at colinmeloy.tumblr.com.
Please contact the The Huffington Post if you share Mr. Meloy's opinions, and consider also expressing appreciation for their autism and science contributors like Todd Drezner, Ariane Zurcher, and Seth Mnookin, who support neurodiversity and autism acceptance. -The Editors