The Huffington Post, a five-year-old social news and opinion site, has teamed up with BET co-founder Sheila Johnson to launch an African-American news section on its site this spring.

“HuffPost GlobalBlack” will relay hard news, politics, and opinion pieces that are culturally relevant to the Black community, according to a recent press release. The new division will house celebrity blogs and investigative pieces while advancing what the organizers call the site’s vision of becoming the online “go-to destination” for web-savvy news-junkies.

“We couldn’t be more excited to be partnering with Sheila Johnson, a true media visionary, on creating what we hope will become a go-to destination for both the African-American community and everyone who cares about these deeply important issues — in America and across the world,” Arianna Huffington, Huffington Post co-founder, said in a statement.

Johnson credited the online platform with being the “center of social news.”

“The Huffington Post is the ideal partner for us to create a thriving online black community of scale, a forum for ideas and discussion meant to inform, engage, surprise and entertain,” she said in a statement.

A Huffington Post spokesman would not confirm an exact launch date for the section, but said it would premiere in coming months. The “HuffPo” is expected to enlarge its editorial staff by eight to manage the division, and Angela Burt-Murray, former editor-in-chief for Essence magazine, rumored to be one of its first new hires, abruptly left the project without explanation, according to the Black journalism blog Journal-isms. She had edited Essence Magazine for five years and joined Huffington’s operation in January.

Site officials confirmed that Derek J. Murphy, a current Huffington Post employee, will manage business operations for “HuffPost GlobalBlack.”

Some media observers questioned the need for another Black-focused media site.

“Did someone forget to tell them about The Root, The Grio, NewsOne, The Loop 21, and the other sites that occupy the space they’re impeding upon?” one blogger wrote on The Smugger.com.

In The Atlanta Post, commentator Anthony Jerrod said the new Black section may be The Huffington Post’s attempt to address a lack of diversity-centered content and minority writers.

“In the scope of continual improvement, the proposition of HuffPost Global Black could plausibly be seen as…its effort to finally diversify their writing staff, ultimately bringing forth those forgotten voices and perspectives.”

But if the new Black-focused section simply “perpetuates stereotypes and solely focuses on crime, entertainment and celebrity news instead of broader evergreen interests…then it would be safe to state that this strategic partnership was a waste of effort and time,” he added.

Huffington Post spokesman Mario Ruiz said the news group might also launch a similar section for Latinos later this year.

Shernay Williams

Special to the AFRO