Arianna Huffington discusses new media at VPAC

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Fresh off her online publication’s $315 million buyout by AOL, The Huffington Post’s editor-in-chief Arianna Huffington took the stage at Valley Performance Arts Center Saturday night to discuss the new media revolution that has transformed journalism.

She began the night with jokes.

“This accent is for real,” the Greek native said, and claimed her accent is not popular in Arizona.

“This is an amazing week to talk about social media,” Huffington said.

She called the Egypt uprising “Revolution 2.0,” an “explosion of Facebook.” Huffington entertained the phenomena that social media has not only connected friends but galvanized citizens of undemocratic states.

She discussed the blogosphere and said it is a new form of entertainment. Huffington said she launched the Post due to this growing trend of blogging.

Huffington talked about her Greek upbringing. She said her father worked in the newspaper industry and claimed she was raised on the smell of newspapers.

She even filled the audience in on what’s transpiring behind the doors at The Huffington Post.

Huffington said new media is free, bringing up media ventures that seek to charge. And she chose to be blunt when expressing her thoughts.

“Trust me. It’s not going to work,” Huffington said, before laughter emerged from the crowd.

Huffington spent as much time praising new media as she did lambasting it. She offered a story of her recent visit to the Los Angeles County Museum of Art. She said she asked administrators there to crack down on mobile device use in the museum. She wanted to prevent what she called a “barrier” of cell phones and iPods that distract the viewers from the art.

“We need to learn to disconnect from all that to reconnect with ourselves,” she said.  “If you learn one thing from listening to me tonight, is to never do that again.”

Huffington lectured further about the perils of this new media addiction. She claimed, citing medical evidence, that checking tech devices in the middle of the night subsequently hinders one’s sleep.

Huffington called it “a ‘Brave New World’ of hyper-connectivity.”

Huffington’s fans from both sides of the hill braved puddled streets to hear her speak.

Some were drawn by Huffington, who is known to blog from a left-leaning perspective.

Barbara Garner of West Los Angeles is one of them. The 68-year-old considers herself fiscally conservative but socially liberal.

“I’m for gay marriage. What can I say?” she said.

When Garner thinks of Huffington, the fortune from the buyout comes to mind.

“I think that’s amazing,” she said.

Garner said she reads Huffington’s blog once a week. She said she is satisfied with Huffington’s support and criticism of President Barack Obama. And Garner said Huffington’s interaction with the public, allowing people to comment, distinguishes her from other bloggers.

Garner expresses her support by following Huffington’s beliefs whether she likes them or not, simply because the entrepreneur communicates sensibly in a world of virulent rhetoric.

“She’s not off the wall. She’s not vindictive,” Garner said.  “Listen to talk radio, that is the worst.”

Garner agreed she may be deprived of both sides of the story when reading the Huffington Post, the publication known to take a left- of -center view. But she said she offsets this by consuming more conservative media.

And she did not think AOL’s buyout would affect The Huffington Post’s content.

CSUN student Adam Barajas, 23, said he has followed Huffington for four to five years. The political science major said he reads The Huffington Post daily on his iPad.

“She’s always been an interesting, liberal and empowered woman in a media dominated by men,” he said.

Barajas talked about what sets her apart from others. Huffington’s publication offers the reader a multitude of information from news to entertainment, to celebrity-written blogs,  he said.