With Future Of Media Uncertain, Mirror Awards Honor Journalists Covering Media

Today’s Mirror Awards luncheon at the Harmonie Club uptown was swarmed by all manner of media types. Media critics who were nominated for Mirrors like Vanity Fair‘s Michael Wolff, Rachel Sklar of Abrams Research (nominated twice for her work for the Huffington Post) and The New York Times‘ David Carr (who won for best commentary in traditional media) mingled with colleagues and big name presenters, including Howard Dean and Nora Ephron.

The awards, which honor excellence in media reporting, were presented for the third year by Syracuse University’s S.I. Newhouse School of Public Communications. MSNBC anchor and Newhouse alum Contessa Brewer guided the festivities as emcee, and Chris Ahearn, president of Reuters Media, and Bloomberg political columnist Margaret Carlson presented awards.

Vanity Fair and The New York Times both took home two of the six prizes awarded by a jury of journalists and journalism educators. In addition to Carr, the Times‘ David Barstow won for best in-depth piece in traditional media. VF‘s Seth Mnookin and David Kamp each snagged an award for best single article, for traditional and digital media, respectively.

Rounding out the winners were Ian Parker for best profile, traditional media, for his profile of Times columnist Thomas Freidman for the New Yorker and Clive Thompson for Wired.com took home the award for best commentary in digital media.

Read on for more about our chat with Arianna Huffington (above middle, with her daughter Christina and MSNBC president Phil Griffin)

The big awards of the day were presented to Obama for America New Media Department/Blue State Digital — which was presented by Howard Dean — and Arianna Huffington, who was awarded the Fred Dressler Lifetime Achievement Award.

Huffington and Nora Ephron, who presented the award to her friend, were the stars of the show. Ephron had the crowd cracking up over her feelings of being second best to Bill Moyers, who was originally slated to present Huffington’s award but had to cancel for a medical procedure. Ephron also told a funny story about how she met Huffington, but fell in love with her only later while watching her on “Strange Bedfellows” with Al Franken.

“When I first met Arianna I was not charmed by her,” Ephron said. “This was because we were both dating the same person at the time. But we both got over him. The next time I saw her she was sleeping with Al Franken…and I fell madly in love with her. She was hilarious…And I’m always amazed when I see a funny Republican, which is what she was at the time. But she got over that, too.”

Huffington, who attended the lunch with her daughter, Christina, gave an impassioned speech about how the media needs to look to the future.

“A lot of criticism has been that I single-handedly killed newspapers, which I haven’t. I have had a lot of help from Craigslist,” she said. “And the economic recession. And this disruptive technology called the Internet. And changing consumer habits.”

But Huffington said she doesn’t believe newspapers are dead just yet. “Right now we are at a very challenging turning point, but I don’t believe the obituaries,” she said. “I believe that reading the actual newspapers is in our DNA…As long as people of our generation are alive, newspapers will be alive.” She added that she really believes in “a hybrid future.”

After the lunch, we caught up with Huffington and asked her about the HuffPo’s Investigative Fund, which seems to just be gearing up to get to work cranking out original content for the digital publication. Huffington said the fund will employ 10 full time journalists and will have the budget to bring on freelancers for assignments, a good opportunity for currently out of work reporters, she said.

“We’re hoping to break more stories,” Huffington said of the impetus behind launching the fund. “Now through the fund we have the resources to bring journalists on staff for in-depth investigations.”

HuffPo is also launching New York and technology pages that will be a mix of blogs, aggregated stories and original reporting, Huffington said.