What does it mean when an online newspaper — barely seven-years-old — wins a 2012 Pulitzer Prize in the category of National Reporting?
The phrase “online newspaper” means that this newspaper — the Huffington Post — did not pay skilled technicians to set up tons of newsprint, made from thousands of pine trees, to roll through giant presses gulping gallons of ink to develop issues of a newspaper to be delivered by vehicles to residential housing.
The Huffington Post went from the newspaper’s computer system after it had been written and edited by professional journalists to computers to be read in homes and offices across this nation … and anywhere else that has a computer system.
Some people may scoff and say that’s not a newspaper. You can’t hold it in your hands.
There is some emotional truth in that, but when that newspaper won a Pulitzer Prize it became a real newspaper.
David Wood, 66, a senior military correspondent who has covered a lot of wars, focused on wounded veterans to write a 10-part series titled Beyond the Battlefield.
I began thinking, however, about how an online newspaper makes money.
For an answer, I sent e-mails out to friends in the field who would know, but so far I have not received any information about how the Huffington Post is able to make its payroll or pay for it production costs.
It is true that the Post would not have to worry about the cost of newsprint, ink or a delivery system, but it has to pay salaries to editors and reporters.
I get news via the Huffington Post every morning through America Online, but I am not charged anything because I am hooked up to AOL, and as I understand it, so is the Huffington Post. Now I have been paying AOL about $14 a month for all these years for what I figured was the cost of membership, which included my e-mail service.
I have no complaints about AOL.
But AOL has never said anything about paying the Post.
I filed a question with Google to ask how does the Huffington Post make money to meet its payroll, and I still haven’t heard from Google.
This is the second time in all these years that I haven’t gotten an answer from Google.
The first time was about a week ago when I asked Google how much did the White Star Co. have to pay in insurance claims when the Titantic sank. Google more or less said it would get back to me.
If I get anything from these questions I will tell you.
The question concerning the Huffington Post is most significant to me because when I first heard about on-line newspapers I thought it would be a wonderful development for journalism.
The flaw, however, is the failure to develop a subscription system that is consistent.
You can develop a subscription system through passwords, but after awhile, people would find a way to bypass the password.
HuffPost, as some call it, has some heavy investors. It was founded by Arianna Huffington, and it has 9,000 bloggers from politicians to celebrities to academicians and policy experts.
And it has some heavy investors. I just don’t understand how it can be a newspaper without having a subscription base.
I’ve seen Arianna Huffinton on television, and she knows her beans, so maybe I should not worry about HuffPost’s subscription, and just say, “Lookout, world, here she comes.”
Gillis Morgan is an associate professor emeritus of journalism at Auburn University and an award-winning columnist. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org