Happy first birthday Huffington Post Canada! We chatted with managing editor Kenny Yum about HuffPost Canada's first year, gaining respect as an original news source and their unique approach to social media. 

 

Happy first birthday Huffington Post Canada! We chatted with managing editor Kenny Yum about HuffPost Canada's first year, gaining respect as an original news source and their unique approach to social media. 

 

J-Source. You were a keynote speaker at this year’s CAJ Conference, and during your presentation of things everyone should know about the Huffington Post Canada, one of your points was that “Our newsroom is not so different than yours.” Can you start off by elaborating on what you meant by that and why this is important?

Kenny Yum: It’s important that while the medium changes, we share the same principles. We are here to tell stories, to engage readers in important topics. Conversations in our newsroom – about accuracy, about what makes a story sing well or a headline resonates or about those nitty gritty style rules you debate about in newspaper or broadcast newsrooms – are the same you’re having.

J-Source: For a long time — in the days before it came to Canada, even — discussion around Huffington Post seemed to hinge on its approach to aggregation and the fact that its bloggers are unpaid. But now, the original reporting being done has been getting some recognition – in the U.S., HuffPo won its first Pulitzer, and last month, your team won the inaugural CAJ Award for Labour reporting. How are you working to further break free of these stereotypes and bring attention to HuffPost Canada’s original reporting?

KY: The short answer is that we let our work speak for itself. Our commitment to investigative, breaking and original reporting is a key part of our news gathering. Not only do we want our staff to tell stories about issues that are not often covered by other media, we make sure we are where others are not. The labour story that won a CAJ was part of an overall series called Mind the Gap, a continuing investigation looking at income inequality. I say continuing because we haven’t stopped covering those issues.  

J-Source: HuffPost Canada was the first international branch of the Huffington Post brand, but the media ownership picture here in Canada is quite different from that of the U.S. What has it been like being a new voice in a country where media ownership is becoming more and more consolidated? What unique challenges do you face in that regard? What benefits do you have as this new voice?

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KY: Our news organization presents a different voice not just because we are not part of a consolidated landscape, so we are not tied to a tradition of coverage, if you know what I mean. It means also that we don’t have to tie ourselves to the sectioned approach to how we cover issues. We relish in taking topics like politics, lifestyle and business and doing them differently. Our approach to news – through social – makes it necessary that we don’t operate like other media, and that makes it easier in a way to adapt to how people are consuming, sharing and engaging the news. HuffPost marked its seventh birthday recently, and is around the same age as YouTube, but there are so many approaches to how we do journalism now that was shaped by a new entry to the market.

J-Source: So, in February you launched Le Huffington Post Quebec, and in the fall, Western Canada will be getting its first regional outlets with HuffPost Alberta and B.C. How exactly will the regional sites interact with the larger Huffington Post Canada brand and how local will their coverage be?

KY: The regional editions will give readers in B.C. and Alberta the best of HuffPost Canada but obviously with key coverage of topics and news events that people are passionate about. We already have a sizable B.C. and Alberta audience who read our overall coverage so we’ll continue to serve them from a national perspective. I think the regional editions will also help our main site get better. Already, our colleagues and coverage of the Quebec protests by our colleagues at Le Huffington Post Quebec has really helped us tell the story better for our HuffPost Canada readers.

Can you spill the beans on any other regional projects that are in the works?

KY:Nothing to report.

J-Source: This is based off my own observations and incessant social media scanning, but HuffPost Canada seems to have taken to taken on a wholly different tone than many news organizations; it’s much more conversational on social media. As well, your homepage splashes are often more, shall we say, colourful than traditional homepage headlines. Why is this?

KY: It’s in our DNA. First off, social and use of social media is not that ‘new tool’ that our journalists have to learn. We know it, and we expect our staff to operate with fluency in social ecosystems. We also try to operate in social with authenticity, which means that we do hand craft every tweet, and think about how we post in Facebook. Because Twitter and Facebook for example are places made for personal interaction, organizations who can operate in those platforms more like people are more likely to flourish.

I’m glad you see a tone and personality in our splashes, story section and headlines because it’s exactly what we are striving for. We think that news should engage, and provoke some sort of reaction, whether it’s shock, surprise or even a smile.