Popular news and blogging site The Huffington Post has announced it will launch a college news vertical on Feb. 15, tentatively. The vertical will feature aggregated news from college media as well as student blogs, according to Adam Clark Estes, citizen journalism editor for theHuffington Post.
Estes said the news aggregator could help fill the void left by Uwire’s sudden shutdown last year.
“Considering Uwire went under there’s kind of a whole to fill there,” Estes said. ” In general, we’re as interested in curating news as we are curating a conversation around the news.”
The HuffPost is currently reaching out to college newspapers around the country, to build a partnership with publications. In exchange for offering content, student media would place a widget on their Web site listing top stories from the section.
Leah Finnegan, former editor of the Daily Texan, is currently in the process of contacting newspapers about the HuffPost partnership and Estes described the response so far as “overwhelmingly positive.”
“I think it’s a really good opportunity for us to get a hold of the national student voice,” Estes said.
I interned at the Huffington Post’s Washington DC bureau during the fall 2009 semester, and, in my opinion, this is a fantastic opportunity for college media outlets. Most university newspapers see relatively low online readership numbers with only a few thousand unique readers monthly at best. The Huffington Post draws millions of unique readers each month, which could provide not only a national platform for many student reporters but also a modest boost in online readers for college news organizations.
In short, having your story linked to on the Huffington Post or any big news aggregator can translate into increased traffic for your site.
And though clearly I’m biased, I agree with Estes — The Huffington Post’s expertise is not only curating news but fostering thoughtful conversations around it. To me, that’s the point of new media.
Of course, not everyone shares my enthusiasm.
A very lively debate on the Huffington Post’s move into the college media world took place on a Jan. 10 #collegeJourn chat, with several student journalists expressing concern about the site’s new vertical.
“It’s hard to understand but the Huffington Post has a kind of excitement around it outside of NYC,” Brown said in a G-Chat interview. “It’s a popular Web site. It generates insane traffic because of SEO and these college publishers probably think that being associated with it will put them in the same light. It won’t.
“Going into a partnership with the Huffington Post where they can absorb your best stories into their feed, will effectively put a giant-green checkpoint between potential readers and your story.”
Suzanne Yada, online editor of the Spartan Daily at San Jose State University, said she is still unsure if a partnership with the Huffington Post would be a boon for student newspapers, adding that the site is often perceived as being partisan.
“I’m still on the fence about it, ” Yada said. “I’m a little skeptical about putting that badge — the widget on the Web site. Other than hits and bragging rights, I feel like it could be a more beneficial relationship fo The Huffington Post than the college newspaper.”
Again, I would have to say I respectfully disagree. The Huffington Post’s status as a leading online news source could provide college reporters with the spotlight they deserve.