Business Insider, the highly trafficked news site with a much-talked-about business model, announced today that former representative Anthony Weiner (D-N.Y.) would serve as a monthly columnist for the site. The column has a good title — “Weiner!” And the column has good byline, too, in that BI’s newsaholic audience knows quite well who’s behind this piece of work.
Business Insider is bargaining on the possibility that Weiner can cram his appeal into a content-management system: “We believe the unique combination of brashness and wonkiness that made Weiner one of last year’s most memorable candidates and one of the most high-profile advocates for health care reform during his time in Congress will make him a perfect fit for Business Insider,” notes an introductory post from BI Politics Editor Hunter Walker.
Are those also the qualities that make Weiner a perfect fit for the New York Daily News? The former congressman and failed New York City mayoral candidate has already columnized for the New York tab, and to slight effect. Here he discusses the “steep learning curve of New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio. And here he advises Rep. Michael Grimm, who’d threatened a reporter with severe harm, on how to get along with reporters. Here’s an excerpt:
Bottom line, notwithstanding the fact that there are lousy reporters — and that we all pay too much attention to scandals and not enough to all the people in public life who get up every day to do the best they can to do good work — the basic deal of representative government is this: The people who get elected have to be held accountable by the people who pay their salaries.
Though by no means disastrous, Weiner’s work as a columnist shows a bit of a knack for tedium, which isn’t an alien trait for a career politician. Walker has no concerns, as he made clear in an e-mail interview with the Erik Wemple Blog: “Say what you want about Anthony, but he has never been tedious. I’m not worried about that at all. Based on our early conversations and the proposals I’ve seen, I think he’s going to have a well-informed and often unexpected take on the issues that matter most to our readers.”
As to how two outlets share columnist Weiner, well, that’s simple, says Walker: He’ll be writing on New York City for the New York Daily News and on national stuff for Business Insider. “We were all aware of each other beforehand and I’m confident there’s plenty of room for us to work without overlap,” notes Walker, who says he has discussed with Weiner the conflicts of interest that could arise in his scribblings. “Since he brought this up proactively, I trust him to be transparent with me if there’s every anything that needs to be disclosed and we will, in turn, be transparent with readers,” writes Walker. Reporters who covered Weiner’s social-media scandal in Congress may not share such trust.
Whatever the case, still: Who wants the written work of Anthony Weiner? How about some video action, with Weiner facing off against ideological opponents on the issues of the day? After all, the guy has done his best work when someone else — especially a Fox News host — gets in his face, and not so much when a blinking cursor gets in his face. To which Walker slam-dunks, “Don’t you think there’s more than enough shouty cable programming out there? If you read through the policy books Anthony produced in his mayoral campaign, it’s abundantly clear he’s interested in policy, innovation, and data.”