Huffington pointed to local citizen-driven sites like Voices of San Diego or Minnpost in Minnesota as examples of amateur journalists filling the information void in a "pro-am, professional-amateur" hybrid approach to reporting. She called on Congress to update their credentialing process to allow more bloggers and amateur journalists free access on Capitol Hill.
But Simon said bloggers and amateur journalists cannot commit the time to really unearth corruption.
"High-end journalism is a profession," he said. "I'm offended to think that anyone anywhere believes that American monoliths, like police departments ... and others ... can be held to task by amateur reporters."
Simon said that Huffington and aggregators, like Google, are benefiting from traditional media reporting while killing it by starving newspapers of their revenue stream. He called the Huffington Post model "self-defeating."
Unlike Huffington, Google News has no editors or original content.
James Moroney, publisher of the Dallas Morning News, said newspapers should be able to band together outside federal anti-trust laws and Congress should give them a limited exemption to anti-trust laws, so that they can formulate a way to charge for their content instead of feeling like they have to offer it free on their Web sites and hope for traffic boosts from Google and Huffington Post.
Professional reporters are not without their faults, Huffington argued.
"Let's not forget that the conventional [media] missed the two biggest stories of our time -- the run-up to the war and the financial meltdown," she said.
The clicks newspapers get from aggregators can be monetized, according to Marissa Mayer, vice president of searches at Google, the main aggregator of news on the Internet.
Mayer said newspapers have to start viewing their product not as a newspaper, but as an amalgam of individual stories that are marketed, much like the music industry has adapted to view each individual song on an album as a distinct product to be sold on iTunes or Amazon.com.
She said such innovation will save newspapers and journalism and it's "a product that can increase engagement."
Even so, Moroney said the millions of visitors to the Dallas Morning News Web site have not translated into enough revenue.
"The Dallas News gets 6 million unique visitors a month and it can't pay for two-thirds of the newsroom," Moroney said.
"Down to the article level?" he said of Google. "I believe it's down to the first four lines. They're making plenty of money down to the first four lines."
Steve Coll, a Pulitzer Prize winner and former managing editor of the Wall Street Journal, said he was leery of large newspaper chains being given special treatment to collude on their content and charge for it. He endorsed the idea of allowing newspapers to become nonprofit entities and suggested that Congress consider revamping public service requirements for broadcasters who use public bandwidth.
"An old order is dying in journalism and a new one is rising," Coll said, "and I think the question is: [Are] there ways to reinforce the bridge between these two?"