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Shirley Leung

Arianna Huffington, pioneer of 24-7 news, says put the phone down

It is 6 a.m., and it is yet another morning where I am in my pajamas tweeting, writing, and cursing Arianna Huffington under my breath.

I blame, in large part, the Huffington Post for supercharging the 24-7 news cycle that has given readers a voracious appetite for information. To keep up, traditional journalists like me have been forced onto a Web schedule, tweeting and filing stories around the clock.

How I long for those days of a single 5 p.m. deadline for the next day’s paper.

So I found it ironic that Huffington, eponymous cofounder of the wildly successful website, published a book last month called “Thrive: The Third Metric to Redefining Success and Creating a Life of Well-Being, Wisdom, and Wonder.”


It’s already number one on The New York Times’s bestseller list. The message: unplug and remember to recharge your own batteries.

For real?

This from a media mogul who carries, wherever she goes, an iPhone, three BlackBerrys, an iPad, and a laptop. Or as she puts it, “the whole catastrophe.”

Should we really be taking advice from her on how to take it easy?

“ ‘Thrive’ does not say don’t work hard,” Huffington told me during an hourlong conversation Wednesday at the Artists for Humanity EpiCenter in South Boston, where she would later give a speech to nearly 200 students and alumni of Hult International Business School.

“It’s making sure you also take time to unplug, recharge, regenerate. In our minds, we want to move into either/or,” she said in her lilting Greek accent. “It’s the cycle of regeneration that is missing, especially because of technology.”

By now, you have figured out “Thrive” is a New Age read for, well, our new age. You have to be into that stuff to get through her book. But she makes a compelling argument, backed with studies and real-life examples from the business world and beyond. It can be hard, at times, to be empathetic about success being so crippling, especially from someone who has the means to employ assistants galore.


Huffington’s own path to rejuvenation began on April 6, 2007, when she was lying at home in a pool of her own blood. She had collapsed and hit her head on the corner of her desk, breaking her cheekbone. Despite a battery of tests, doctors could not find anything wrong with her, except exhaustion. It had been a whirlwind two years since she had launched HuffPost.

To fight burnout, she became obsessed with sleep, and as she put it, started to have HuffPost cover the topic “exhaustively,” complete with its own section. Three years ago, she even installed two nap rooms in the HuffPost newsroom.

In her book, she discusses the sleeping habits of Bill Clinton — and not that kind we’re used to reading about. Our former president, “who used to famously get only five hours of sleep a night, admitted, ‘Every important mistake I’ve made in my life, I’ve made because I was too tired.’ ”

Huffington herself needs seven to eight hours a night. She also makes sure her devices charge far away from her bed so she can’t sneak a peek at an e-mail in the middle of the night.

At 63, Huffington hardly looked it Wednesday, coiffed and impeccably dressed in a fashionable brown lace suit. Maybe all that sleep — or all that money — does help. She was once married to Michael Huffington, the awfully wealthy former Republican congressman from California. He later came out of the closet after their divorce.


She probably has her own money now after selling HuffPost to AOL for $315 million in 2011. She remains very much in charge, as chair, president, and editor in chief of the Huffington Post Media Group.

HuffPost is in 11 countries with 850 employees, and the enterprise has made her a reigning queen of media to a generation of digital natives. The site attracts nearly 80 million unique visitors a month in the United States, more than the websites of the New York Times and CNN get individually, according to comScore.

The left-leaning HuffPost has changed dramatically since its launch, but it remains a mixture of celebrity bloggers, original reporting, and the infamous aggregation of stories from other news sites.

While traditional media consider it a nemesis, Huffington herself is quite fond of old-fashioned newspapers. She is even optimistic about our future.

“Despite the prognostications of the end of the newspapers, there are still newspapers, and there are still people like me who love reading newspapers,” she said.

Maybe she wrote “Thrive” for all the newspaper types like me — so we can find a way to keep up without burning out.

Shirley Leung is a Globe columnist. She can be reached at shirley.leung@globe.com. Follow her on Twitter @leung.