August 20, 2008

elephant journal e-xclusive: Waylon Lewis interviews Arianna Huffington, founder of Huffington Post…pre-DNC.

Waylon Lewis, for elephantjournal.com: Recently, we interviewed Amy Goodman, Paul Hawken and Lester Brown. They all say the same thing: that media is the key to “saving the world.” I’d add that independent media, not beholden to its investors or advertisers, is key. As founder of the most popular news blog in the world, what’s your view of the role of the fourth estate in keeping our Democracy vital—and spreading the Green Gospel to every corner of our troubled but still powerful nation?

Arianna Huffington: There is no question that a strong, independent, and uncompromising media dedicated to holding our leaders’ feet to the fire is a crucial part of keeping our democracy alive and kicking. There’s a reason the Founding Fathers included freedom of the press in the First Amendment. Unfortunately, too many journalists have forgotten that the highest calling of journalism is to ferret out the truth… consequences be damned. They have traded their press pass for an all-access pass to the halls of power—acting more like lapdogs than watchdogs. The good news is that the new media have leveled the journalism playing field. The days of publishing pooh-bahs dictating what is important and what is not important are over.

When it comes to green issues, all too often the traditional media, in the name of “balance” and “objectivity,” fall back on the misguided notion that every story has two sides, and that the truth is to be found somewhere in the middle. I’m sorry but not every story has two sides. Global warming is a fact—and when reporting on the issue it is ridiculous to give equal time and equal weight to Al Gore and to Sen. James Inhofe.

ele: I plan on running for City Council in the next Boulder election-cycle. If I turn out to be any good at serving the common good, I’d like to go on to run for Congress, and then Gov’ner of Colorado. Problem: I was brought up in an American Buddhist family and community. You’re a politically-savvy mover and shaker: do you think I should start going to Church, or is America really the pluralist society our Founding Fathers envisioned?

Arianna Huffington: The key is authenticity. Going to church in an effort to fool voters seems like a very bad idea. Just look at the knots John McCain has tied himself in—and the principles he has abandoned—while trying to appeal to evangelical voters. Religion and spirituality can play a role in politics by helping to keep politicians focused on what’s meaningful in life, and on our responsibility to help those who are less fortunate. But it can’t be a cloak you wrap around your shoulders in the run up to Election Day.

ele: Tell me about “the Oasis” you’ll be putting together at the DNC?

Arianna Huffington: HuffPost Oasis will offer harried conventioneers a chance to unplug and recharge. Presented by The Huffington Post’s Living section and Off the Mat, Into the World, the Oasis will offer complimentary yoga, massages, healthy snacks and refreshments, music and comfortable seating areas for lounging and unwinding. We are thrilled to have Seane Corn overseeing the yoga programming. The commitment she’s making with Off the Mat is so much what HuffPost’s Living section is all about—taking care of ourselves and leading balanced, centered lives while at the same time making a difference in the world.

ele: How did HuffPost connect with Seane Corn? She’s our idol.

Arianna Huffington: Sean is my phenomenal yoga teacher. When she’s in L.A., that is, which is not at all as much as I’d like, because of her remarkable work around the world with Off The Mat. She and I were talking during one of our yoga sessions (sorry, I know you’re not supposed to talk during yoga sessions!) about how the Huffington Post wanted to create a space during the convention where people could go to unplug and recharge—and how the need to do so becomes all the more important the busier you are. Seane loved the idea and she and I went on talking about during the next couple of yoga classes, and since then via email, as she has been traveling around the world.

ele: Does HuffPost’s Oasis represent a new interest in wellness, eco living and non-new agey spirituality on the part of HuffPost?

Arianna Huffington: HuffPost has been featuring news and blog posts on all these things for over a year now, ever since we launched our Living section. By creating the Oasis during the convention, we wanted to demonstrate that a balanced life is possible—even during what is undoubtedly the most hectic days in the political calendar.

Digg this interview? Then push it out there, svp.


Image: Álvaro Ibáñez/Wikimedia Commons

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