Leonard Downie Jr., former executive editor of The Washington Post, ripped into news aggregators like The Huffington Post, Drudge Report, and NewsNow while delivering the James Cameron Memorial Lecture at London’s City University Wednesday night, saying that they populate their sites “with news, opinion, features, photographs and video that they continuously collect — some would say steal — from other national and local news sites,” paidContent reported.

Highlights from Downie’s speech, via paidContent:

Revealing photos of and stories about entertainment celebrities account for much of the highly touted Web traffic to The Huffington Post… Though they purport to be a new form of journalism, these aggregators are primarily parasites living off journalism produced by others.

Credible, verifiable journalism about what is important in life is needed more than ever amidst the babble of the blogosphere and social networks.

The best journalism being produced now — thanks to the same forces of change that have so disrupted the old order — is arguably better than ever.

Journalists can gather news and information much more widely and deeply on the Internet. They can update and supplement their reporting continuously on blogs and social media, and they can have their reporting enriched and fact-checked by their audiences.

The challenge I see — in the United States and elsewhere, over time — is to turn this tumultuous moment of transformation into a beneficial reconstruction of journalism, enabling credible, verifiable, independent news reporting to emerge, enlivened and enlarged, from the current decline of long-dominant news media.