The announcement this week that Arianna Huffington, president and editor-in-chief of the Huffington Post, had joined the board of Uber triggered an avalanche of concern that she might discourage her journalist employees from any critical coverage of the $60 billion ride-sharing company.
Huffington vowed to stay out of Uber coverage—but within 24 hours, the Washington Post reported that a HuffPo staffer had been discouraged from writing about a high-speed police chase involving an Uber driver and passenger. On April 6, writer Sarah Digiulio flagged for her editor a New York Times story about an Uber passenger who police say took control of the vehicle while the driver napped and then proceeded to lead state troopers on a high-speed chase. A story involving the words “Uber” and “high-speed chase” seems ripe for aggregation—by HuffPost or any other news outlet.
But HuffPost staff editor Gregory Beyer reportedly told Digiulio to pass on the story, writing in an email, “Thanks, Sarah. Let’s hold on this one please as we’re partnering with Uber on our drowsy driving campaign,” according to the Post. Digiulio never wrote the story but later that day HuffPost’s video unit published a report on the incident involving the napping Uber driver.
A HuffPost spokesperson characterized the incident as “a mistake” by Digiulio.
“There was no editorial decision that was made based on a content marketing partnership,” the spokesperson said in an email to Fast Company. “A mistake was made by an editor, for which he apologized profusely. No story was killed. In fact, the Huffington Post covered the Uber driver story the same day the news hit.”
As for the apology from Beyer, that email was provided to Fast Company and can be read in full below:
“Hi everyone, just wanted to bump this because a few people have asked me about this email and I realize it gave off the wrong impression. Obviously our partnerships never affect our coverage, and I was moving quickly in the moment and sent the wrong message as I read it in hindsight. For any confusion or concern I caused with my note, I apologize.”