The set of HuffPost Live, the 12-hour-per-day live news stream that launched last August, is separated from its newsroom by a transparent glass wall. Throw pillows cover tufted leather couches, oriental rugs lie under rough-hewn wooden coffee and side tables, and floating bookshelves line the clear walls—lending a hipster chic hotel-lobby vibe, which makes sense, considering the set was designed by the team behind trendy establishments like the Ace Hotel and the Standard.
In spite of this casually polished vintage aesthetic, there is an amateur quality to many of the HuffPost Live broadcasts, as “experts” (a term broadly defined) offer their opinions via Skype and video chat. Part radio-call in show, part curated chatroulette, part cable news, HuffPost Live has moments of profundity and moments of drivel. It is, in this way and many others, the Huffington Post come to life.
A recent panel about Rudy Giuliani, for example, featured six guests, most of whom were reporters calling in from their work desks or living rooms or possibly some local Starbucks. One reporter spoke into his cellphone, the glare of his computer screen visible in his glasses. Another reporter had his laptop at an odd angle, creating an unflattering facial effect that no traditional network would ever abide.
Even the formatting of the site is telling. The comments section is given greater prominence than the live cast—half the page is given over to real-time viewer discussion, while only the top-left quarter displays the actual show. The top-of-the-page banner displays a constant scroll of the “greenroom,” where commenters are invited to weigh in on segments before they even occur.
It may seem messy, but according to Roy Sekoff, the founding editor of the Huffington Post and president of HuffPost Live, that DIY aesthetic is all part of the plan.
“Marshall McLuhan famously said the medium is the message,” Mr. Sekoff told The Observer last week while sitting in his office overlooking the HuffPost Live set. “Well, I feel that sometimes the production value is the message. And the message here is: these are real people, and they’re in their space.”
In fact, real people everywhere are encouraged to participate. And not just as commenters but “on equal footing with our other guests,” as Arianna Huffington put it to us. Hosts read tweets and comments aloud and even allow them to guide some of the content. After watching a few hours of the live stream, one begins to wonder: are the inmates running the asylum?