Huffington Post cofounder and executive editor Arianna Huffington has joined Uber's board, and many are calling the move a conflict of interest for the woman who runs one of America's biggest newsrooms. One group that's especially upset: Disability advocates.
"Ms. Huffington must immediately recuse herself from any coverage of Uber or ridesharing and the Huffington Post must work to expose Uber's refusal to serve people in wheelchairs,"The Verge quoted Dustin Jones, founder of United for Equal Access New York, as saying. "Anything less would be a failure of journalistic ethics for the sole benefit of a multi-billion-dollar company."
Both Uber and Lyft have been criticized over the past several months for allegedly not making sufficient effort to accommodate users in wheelchairs. Uber added an option in December to allow users in Washington D.C. to order wheelchair accessible vans through the app. (Here's a link to a story about the option, from Huffington Post.)
Frustrations go beyond concerns about editorial coverage of ridesharing wheelchair accessibility. A Washington Post story points out recent content in Huffington Post pandering to Uber. "Toyota Is Giving Away Cheap Uber Rides To College Students," reads a headline, followed by the deck, "It's all part of the sleep revolution," an apparent reference to Huffington's recent book "The Sleep Revolution" and her campaign to promote sleep.
There's also a video of Uber CEO Travis Kalanick with his father on the Huffington Post website. "It's heart-warming, perfect material for the Kalanick family Facebook page. It's part of the Huffington Post's 'Talk to Me' series," writes Post journalist Erik Wemple.
Huffington has a history of advocating for her friends in the pages ofHuffington Post, as Gawkerpoints out. One HuffPo writer told the blog, "People are obviously uncomfortable with the relationship, but at least we're aware of this one." Making the conflict of interest all the more jarring, Gawker notes, Huffington sits on the Center for Public Integrity's board.
As a journalist, at least nominally, it would be unorthodox enough for Huffington to sit on any corporate board, let alone on the board of a controversial one that has recently made headlines for skirting regulations and threatening journalists with smear campaigns, among other things. A Huffington Post spokeswoman did not immediately reply to a request for comment.
Kalanick writes in a post announcing Huffington's addition that he's pretty excited for what's to come: "Arianna embodies the type of optimistic leadership we need as Uber continues to grow. Her guidance has been invaluable to me personally over the years, and I know that in this new role she'll help take Uber to the next level."