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Erik Wemple
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Posted at 03:35 PM ET, 08/02/2012

Van Susteren’s ‘Gretawire’ works for free


Blogger Greta Van Susteren (Andrew Harrer - BLOOMBERG)
A year ago, the techies at Fox News were sprucing up Gretawire, the blog platform for the host of “On the Record with Greta Van Susteren.” The goal was to polish the graphics presentation and upgrade the video interface for Van Susteren’s YouTube channel, not to mention implement live-chat capabilities.

Upon looking over the redesign, Van Susteren balked at one component — the spot set aside for advertisements. “It takes up space. Why should I have an ad on it?” Van Susteren asks. So she said, in effect, no ads! Approval came easy. “Fox is really easygoing about that kind of stuff. They’re not going to make a fortune off of Gretawire. It is successful, but blogs and Web sites don’t make a lot of money,” she says.

Fox is projecting profits in the neighborhood of $1 billion this year, so Van Susteren may well be right about whether her eponymous blog, which has been in circulation for nine years, could beef up the network’s bottom line. For the Greta Van Susteren Brand, however, Gretawire is doing tremendous work. Just this week, it attracted a great deal of attention via this post, which originated from Mitt Romney’s trip to Poland:

There has been no press access to Governor Romney since we landed in Poland. We (press) are in a holding pattern (I can’t help but feel a bit like the press is a modified petting zoo since we are trapped in a bus while Polish citizens take pictures of us.) Under the headline “Governor Romney won’t like this” we saw a big sign in the crowd for Rep Ron Paul.

Despite tucking the petting-zoo riff inside a parenthetical, Van Susteren sent it on a tour through Linkville, via the Huffington Post, Mediaite, Daily Kos, among others. The three sentences helped push Gretawire to a million pageviews for July, says the blog’s author.

As to the provenance of the petting-zoo thing, Van Susteren says: “We were sitting there in traffic in a bus in Gdansk, Poland, due to a festival. And we were just sitting there — all the press in the bus — and these people outside were taking pictures of us.”

The Fox News host has something of a knack for making Washington listen. Last year, for instance, she blasted Tucker Carlson and his Daily Caller for having posted a story repeating some vile and mysogynistic remarks by Mike Tyson on a radio show. Again, Van Susteren saved her best stuff for the parentheses:

I am sparing you the details. To show you how bad it is, however, I have put a screen grab up of the front page reference on Tucker’s website. (I am deliberately not putting the link up since I am not going to help Tucker be a pig . . . he apparently can do it all himself without my help.)

And in March, Gretawire pronounced on the choice of comedian Louis C.K. as a speaker at the Radio and Television Correspondents’ Association Dinner. Her words were credited with helping to prompt the comedian’s eventual withdrawal from the event.

Another pig . . . and a media association has hired the pig, Louis C.K., to be their headliner for the big media dinner? Really? I am not going. I refuse to go. Everyone in the media should join me in this boycott.
The headliner of this year’s Radio and Television Correspondents Dinner is “comedian” Louis C.K. Comedian? I don’t think so. Pig? yes.

You may have noticed that Van Susteren forgot the apostrophe in “Correspondents’.” When asked whether she has a copy editor look over her stuff before she posts, she pfffed, then said, “No.” Ninety-nine point nine percent of the posts on Gretawire, she says, come straight off her fingertips and onto the blog. Which explains a post from today in which Van Susteren points readers to a story on the near-collision Tuesday at Reagan National Airport. It demonstrates, among other things, that the “h” and “y” on keyboards are adjacent:

The below does not happen unless an air traffic controller is asleep at the wheel. The airport in DC is very, very bush and there is very little margin for error.

That’s Gretawire. Raw, quick, frequent, quirky. All of the ingredients, that is, to invite occasional counterpunches — like the time Van Susteren wrote on Gretawire that Fox News doesn’t do things like fancy launch parties: ”At Fox we just get hired and go to work.” David Carr of the New York Times responded with a post detailing just such a fancy Fox party. Media Matters for America, which tracks all things Fox, made note of a Gretawire post that wondered the following about White House aide Valerie Jarrett, who’d blamed Fox News for promoting class warfare: “Is she drinking? Or do you agree with her?” When asked about Gretawire, Media Matters spared the usual Fox-oriented venom. Says Jess Levin, the group’s national press secretary: “My initial thought is that the most interesting thing about Gretawire is how she uses it to criticize her Fox colleagues.”

Like in February, when Fox News political contributor Cal Thomas made some inexcusable remarks about MSNBC’s Rachel Maddow. Gretawire roared with brevity: “Cal Thomas needs to pick up the phone and make a personal call to Rachel Maddow. Then he needs to publicly apologize.”(He did, and Gretawire blogged it.)

“It’s fun. I do it for fun,” says Van Susteren. It had better be. After all, Van Susteren is under no obligation to blog for Fox News. There’s nothing in her contract, she says, specifying Gretawire contributions. She says she uses all of her own equipment to feed the blog and spends countless hours keeping its fire stoked, including the laborious sequence of generating and posting video. On the Romney trip, for instance, she took some footage of a tunnel in Israel.”I did video then had to bring it [to the hotel], load it into the computer, drag to it to my desktop, import it to iMovie then share it to YouTube, then call someone because I’d forgotten my password to YouTube, and then I have to post it,” she says. ”These things take time.”

Whatever you think of Gretawire, it tops the list of Fox News blogs. A run through the roster suggests that the ranks of the cable network’s talent don’t share Van Susteren’s passion for this platform. A great many of the recent posts on the Sean Hannity-branded “The Great American Blog,” for example, are bylined “Web Producer.” Gretawire would never stand for that.

Nor would Gretawire appear on a PowerPoint presentation for how to game Google. Titles of recent posts include “Check out this pic ! Only in Alaska” and “This is cute (I say dripping with sarcasm) – click and read.” Where are the SEO-friendly keywords, Van Susteren? “I don’t even know what SEO is,” she says. “I guess it’d be fun to boost the traffic, but nobody’s making a dime. . . . If it were my living, I’d be more interested in it, but it’s my hobby.”

By  |  03:35 PM ET, 08/02/2012

 
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