Transcript: Arianna Huffington on We Are Drowning in Data and Starved for Wisdom

Interviewer: It’s interesting because some may say that the reason that it doesn’t happen is because of this 24/7 media commentary. And increasingly it’s thought in some circles that media is increasingly shaping politics as opposed to just reporting of it. So, how do you think through and try and control that with your curation and editorial prowess?

Arianna Huffington: So you mean it’s our fault, right?

Interviewer: I was trying to be diplomatic. Some may say. Certainly not myself but some.

Arianna Huffington: So I think first of all, we are not going to avoid the 24/7 nature of media and the internet. This is whether you, even if you never go on the Huffington Post, or the New York Times site, or any site, you have your Facebook and Instagram and endless social media. So that’s going to be the nature of our lives going forward. So that’s why it’s even more imperative that we learn to set our own boundaries. And that we need to stop giving in to FOMO, the fear of missing out.

Interviewer: We don’t know if that is here totally.

Arianna Huffington: Because in the end what we’re missing out on is our life. And that is something which will require a major culture shift. I mean we can do it individually and a lot of people are doing it. And ironically there is now more and more technology that paradoxically is helping us deal with technology. But in the end, it will require some support from the culture, whether it’s culture at school, at college, and the workplaces where we are and our families. So I feel that we are in the process now of a major culture shift, and we’re in the middle of this transition. And like any other transition, a lot of different types of behavior are valued and are exhibited, all at the same time. And whether you’re optimistic or pessimistic depends on what you focus on.

Interviewer: So this Fourth Revolution has been a big topic at Davos amongst many of the world leaders. And you ran for governor of California once but haven’t returned to politics directly yourself. What caused you to run then and why not since and would you like to bring about the fourth resolution?

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Arianna Huffington: No, I have — I would rather have five-hour root canal. There are very few things that I can categorically say but I would never run for office is one of them which I’m sure Christina my daughter will be happy to hear. She was very opposed to my running in the first place. I would never run, first of all because I feel I can contribute more with what I’m doing. And secondly, because politics at the moment is completely poisoned and I think that’s one of the problems that really — we got to the point where anybody who can do anything else is not going to enter political life anymore. So we would definitely need to change the system so that we can bring in better people to run but I am definitely not going to be one of them. Maybe you, if you decide to –

Interviewer: Well, you’ll certainly do without me bumbling along and making a mess of things. Okay, so let’s talk about the platform from which you’re currently able to shape the view, the Huffington Post. So you established this back in the day, it was a revolutionary online platform, mix of original content, aggregation and blogging. Yet you were at the time neither part of the media establishment nor a common man that the bloggers represented nor a tech person. So how did the idea come about and how did you get it off the ground initially?

Arianna Huffington: So the idea really came about because I could see that the conversation was moving online. And I wanted to sort of elevate the online conversation, because as you said, at the time bloggers were perceived as people who couldn’t get a job, in their pajamas, in their parent’s basement. And I want to demonstrate that, in fact, it could be different. And so from the beginning, my aspiration for Huff was, remember we started with five people out of my home in Los Angeles, but —

Interviewer: In the basement, in their pajamas.

Arianna Huffington: No, not in the basement, a rather nice office but still, a tiny operation. But the goal was to ultimately become both a journalistic enterprise of the kind that we did become, we now have 850 reporters, editors, engineers in 15 countries, we won a Pulitzer. So, to become a really substantive journalistic enterprise, but to also be a platform. And that was just as important from the beginning. And on day one, I had an amazing roster of bloggers. I had emailed everybody I knew and had said if there is anything on your mind that you want to write about it, please write about it on the Huffington Post. And we’re going to make it super easy for you. I know all of you could be writing for The New York Times, because I invited people like Larry David and Ellen DeGeneres and, this is how long ago it was, so many of them are dead now, Walter Cronkite.

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And basically, we had this amazing first day when a lot of these people, everyone I just mentioned, was on the first day of the Huffington Post blogging. So suddenly, blogging was elevated into something which you could do, even though you could actually write an op-ed that would be accepted in the Financial Times or The New York Times. And the reason why they would do that is because it was so much easier. They would just write something and we would post it and they wouldn’t be edited and they wouldn’t go back and forth, asking them to make it shorter or longer or whatever. And, in fact, we created a little concierge service where people in LA could literally dictate. They could call us from the phone, from their cars and we would take dictation and then send it back to them to make any edits. And I think Larry David, everything he wrote, he would dictate from the set. Ari Emanuel, who I remember, called me from the golf course, and say I have this idea about Mel Gibson, it’s terrible that Hollywood isn’t going against him. Remember when he made his anti-semitic comments and Hollywood was giving him a pass? And, literally, Ari called me on a Sunday, I took dictation, and I sent it back to him, he made a couple of changes, we posted it and it changed the climate in Hollywood. Suddenly, Disney announced we’re not going to be doing his next movie, etc., etc.

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