Some of Huffington's Fanfare Hires Are Quietly Leaving
Reporter Shahien Nasiripour is Huffington Post's second big loss this week
It's been a tough week for Arianna Huffington. After AOL's stock tanked following a spotty earnings report, a pair of her most celebrated journalists--one of them a high profile poach from The New York Times--abruptly left the Huffington Post. There's a growing list of top editors who've quietly fled the Huffington Post since the AOL takeover. No one expects any employer to issue a press release when an employee quits, but there was quite a bit of fanfare, often from Huffington herself, when they were brought on. Particularly when Huffington was defending her site from those who think its aggregating ways cross the lines of journalism ethics in her spat with Times editor Bill Keller, who later complained about her habit of luring his journalists away with big checks. But with this week's evidence that she can't keep them there, people are starting to think that Huffington tactic isn't working.
Earlier this week it was reported that Maura Egan, the former deputy travel editor of The New York Times's style magazine T, abruptly left her job at as the Huffington Post deputy culture and entertainment editor after only five months. The Huffington Post offered a one line statement on her departure: "Maura decided to pursue other career opportunities." But when Egan was hired, they heralded her arrival in a press release.
Huffington also lost one of her favorite reporters this week. The Huffington Post's veteran scoop-machine Shahien Nasiripour is leaving the website after two years to be the Washington Correspondent for the Financial Times. Huffington consistently lauded Nasiripour's reporterly prowess as a sign of the site's contribution to journalism. "Paul Krugman more recently singled out the work of our lead finance writer," she wrote referencing Nasiripour in her reply to Bill Keller's infamous anti-HuffPo column. When The Times challenged her site's journalistic integrity again in an April interview, Huffington lauded Nasiripour's work again. "I think you’re missing out," Huffington said. "Shahien Nasiripour has been breaking news constantly on Wall Street reform."
Since the AOL deal, Huffington has been outspoken about her mission to recruit established talent and build the newly formed AOL Huffington Post Media Group into a journalism powerhouse that can compete with brands like The New York Times. It's a mission that, in many ways, started with journalists like Nasiripour in 2009 and became Huffington's modus operandi this year with the hiring of Egan and others. She's now beholden to AOL shareholders, who certainly don't read reports that the talent she's been spending huge sums of money to hire are not fitting in. After all, with her company's stock sinking, Huffington can't afford much more bad news.
[Full Disclosure: I worked as an editor at the Huffington Post from 2009 to 2010.]