From The Rumpus:
In 2003 I was fresh out of college and interning at Ms. Magazine. I first saw Arianna Huffington at the magazine’s editorial offices, where she was holding a press conference to discuss the numerous sexual harassment charges against her gubernatorial opponent, Arnold Schwarzenegger. Huffington was there to explain why his track record made him unfit to be California’s next governor.
I can’t recall precisely what she said, but I do remember her mentioning how Schwarzenegger’s cavalier attitude about his abuses of power on a personal level would likely manifest in the political sphere. I was deeply impressed by Huffington’s poise and intelligence (not to mention her tailored power suit and perfectly coiffed hair). It was a revelation: a woman could be classy and tough, assertive without being bitchy, and radical without sporting dreadlocks and Birkenstocks. So it was possible to be progressive and possess fashion sense! Huffington was a self-made woman who I thought would stand up for what she believed in—and perhaps even for those who couldn’t advocate for themselves.
Six years later, Ms. Huffington was a featured speaker at my graduate journalism program. A number of my friends protested her appearance, citing the fact that she essentially “pimped out” students from our program to produce investigative content for the Huffington Post without compensation, and she didn’t offer paid internships to boot. I debated ditching the lecture, but in the end I felt it worth my time. Whether or not I agreed with her methods, she had created quite a clever business model—and she was still one of the most powerful women in media. Paid or not, a clip from the Huffington Post carried a certain cachet, and I wasn’t going to dismiss her or her unpaid bloggers so easily. As we are taught, beggars can’t be choosers.
At the lecture, Huffington was once again articulate, passionate and tailored to a tee, but when the question and answer part came things got a little dicey. Someone asked why she didn’t pay her interns; another student asked if she thought the model of aggregation/blogging she implemented was detrimental to the future journalism. Things got a little tense.