New York-Since it started 11 years ago, The Huffington Post has been synonymous with the personality and the interests of its co-founder, Arianna Huffington.
The pioneering web publication, known for its aggressive use of aggregation and an unapologetically liberal worldview, would go on to win a Pulitzer Prize and expand globally during a challenging time for all media organizations.
But over the last year, The Huffington Post has found itself an increasingly small part of an increasingly large media and tech conglomerate. When Verizon, which announced it had purchased The Huffington Post’s parent company, AOL, in May 2015, bought Yahoo’s internet business last month, Ms. Huffington’s perch at the company seemed increasingly precarious.
With her abrupt announcement on Thursday that she was stepping down as editor in chief of The Huffington Post and leaving the company to focus on her new venture, a health and wellness start-up called Thrive Global, she leaves the publication in an unfamiliar position. For the first time since its founding in 2005, The Huffington Post will be without Ms. Huffington. No successor was named.
In an interview, Ms. Huffington, 66, said she had originally intended to run The Huffington Post while working to start Thrive Global. But that plan soon reached its limits.
“The original idea was that I could do both,” she said. “But it very quickly turned out to be an illusion.”
Along with her success, Ms. Huffington has been a polarizing figure in the media world, and her presence in the newsroom has not always been constant. But since Verizon bought AOL, her interests seemed to increasingly move beyond running The Huffington Post. After the sale, there was speculation that she would leave the company, concerns allayed when she signed a four-year contract in June 2015.
Other moves have generated misgivings in the newsroom. The publication’s decision last summer to put articles about Donald J. Trump’s presidential campaign in its entertainment section and a later decision to add an editor’s note calling Mr. Trump a “serial liar” and a “racist” to any article about him raised questions about whether Ms. Huffington was unduly influencing coverage to suit her political agenda.
In April, the announcement that she was joining Uber’s board rankled employees who feared inherent conflicts of interest in coverage. (She said she would recuse herself from being involved with any coverage of the company.) The publication has also been criticized for what some see as excessive coverage of sleep and wellness, topics on which Ms. Huffington has written books.
At the same time, staff attrition, evidenced by a flurry of goodbye emails over the last year, has taken a toll on morale. In that context, Ms. Huffington’s decision to leave surprised an already anxious newsroom.
At a staff meeting Thursday morning in The Huffington Post’s Manhattan headquarters, Ms. Huffington stressed her confidence in the organization. “Great companies always succeed beyond their founder,” she said, according to an article by Michael Calderone, the publication’s media reporter. “Even though HuffPost bears my name, it is absolutely about all of you and about this amazing team we’ve been for over 11 years.”
The New York Times