Dazzle, Yes. But Can They Blog?
Monday, May 9, 2005
The essence of blogging has been the one-man band, the big mouth in the basement, the pajama-clad pontificator taking on the media establishment.
Now Arianna Huffington, who knows something about seizing the spotlight, wants to change that. Today she launches a 300-person blog, the Huffington Post, featuring lots of her famous showbiz friends, that could redefine the nature of online commentary, or at least bring her another 15 minutes.
Her marquee names -- Warren Beatty, Diane Keaton, Julia Louis-Dreyfus, David Geffen, Rob Reiner, Albert Brooks, Bill Maher, Larry David -- aren't exactly hurting for ways to get their messages out.
"The great thing about blogging is that your thoughts don't have to have a beginning, middle and end," says Huffington, arguing that famous folks are usually too busy to craft an op-ed piece. "You can just put a thought out there in the cultural bloodstream."
Huffington's Hollywood pals -- who also include such writers and producers as David Mamet, Norman Lear, Mike Nichols and Aaron Sorkin -- are just the neon attractions. She is also touting Walter Cronkite, Gary Hart, Arthur Schlesinger, Mort Zuckerman, Vernon Jordan and Robert Kennedy Jr. And while the blog is heavy on left-wingers, she has reached out to the right, luring the likes of John Fund of the Wall Street Journal, Tony Blankley of the Washington Times and National Review's David Frum.
Says political activist Laurie David, wife of the "Curb Your Enthusiasm" star: "Early every morning, we're at the kitchen table reading the papers, and within three minutes one of us is screaming. This is going to be a channel for that."
Beatty says the venture "holds out the possibility that the horrifying danger of media consolidation may be ameliorated." He says Huffington will provide a forum "not owned by the New York Times, News Corp., General Electric, Disney, Viacom, The Washington Post, Tribune Media, Knight Ridder, Gannett and the like" and that smart writers "will have no fear of being edited or fired for views that might go against the interests of the publisher." At the White House correspondents' dinner last month, Huffington invited several media attendees to join her site.
No one is promised a dime.
Blog mistress is only the latest incarnation for Huffington, who has been a Republican activist (as a GOP congressman's wife), Democratic activist (she backed John Kerry), Comedy Central bedmate of Al Franken, syndicated columnist, author, anti-SUV crusader and gadfly candidate for California governor (she got 0.6 percent of the vote after a last-minute pullout). She envisions the blog as a big dinner party, with chatter "about politics and books and art and music and food and sex."
Huffington insists her effort isn't just about the boldface names; she's lined up some college kids and a friend's 11-year-old daughter. "My dream is that we'll create new blogging stars," she says.
Huffingtonpost.com has a dozen investors, from her partner Ken Lerer, a former AOL Time Warner executive, to Larry David. The site, which has seven paid staffers, including a former Matt Drudge researcher, will sell advertising, and Tribune Media plans to syndicate weekly highlights.
An advance peek at the early postings provides the flavor of the dialogue. When Cronkite proposed a Democratic convention to hammer out what the party stands for, labor leader Andy Stern wrote: "Walter, if it is a repetition of the last convention, we should proceed with extreme caution!" Lear was blunt: "I cringe for that great body of voters every time I hear them disparaged -- 'Can't they see they're voting against their own self-interest?' -- by us Democrats, liberals, progressives, whatever we are calling ourselves at the moment."