The New York Times has a strange story on Arianna Huffington's new celebrity blog designed to compete with the Drudge Report. Yes, that's what the story says:
Among those signed up to contribute are Walter Cronkite, David Mamet, Nora Ephron, Warren Beatty, James Fallows, Vernon E. Jordan Jr., Maggie Gyllenhaal, Arthur M. Schlesinger Jr., Diane Keaton, Norman Mailer and Mortimer B. Zuckerman.
"This gives me a chance to sound off with a few words or a long editorial," said Mr. Cronkite, 88, the longtime "CBS Evening News" anchorman. "It's a medium that is new and interesting, and I thought I'd have some fun."
In some ways, Ms. Huffington's venture is a direct challenge to the popular Drudge Report. Started nearly a decade ago by Matt Drudge, the Drudge Report lifts potentially hot news from obscurity and blares it across a virtual "front page," usually before anyone else. While his squibs are sometimes cast with a conservative slant, his "developing" scoops often send the mainstream media scrambling to catch up.
But--you might object--Drudge doesn't really run a blog. Well, you just have to read the story to see how a celebrity group blog with 250 posters might compete with Drudge. Although most of the story is about the celebrity posters, the crucial fact in the story might be this:
Ms. Huffington's effort - to be called the Huffington Post (www.huffingtonpost.com) - will also seek to ferret out potentially juicy items and give them legs. In fact, she has hired away Mr. Drudge's right-hand Web whiz, Andrew Breitbart, who used to be her researcher.
Aha! So someone who is not well known (or, more precisely, is about as well known as a lot of prominent non-celebrity bloggers), Andrew Breitbart, may be writing a news service to compete with Drudge. That is at least a plausible hook--someone with web expertise but without a famous name might provide important content.
The format is not disclosed. Will all 250 celebrities be posting one after another on the same page? I could imagine that working, somewhat like NRO online. If so, a small fraction of the 250 celebrities are likely to dominate the dialogue. Or will there instead effectively be a blogroll on the side with 250 celebrity names to click on? The article ambiguously says that "Notables will oversee certain sections, with Gary Hart . . . taking the lead on national security issues." It was thus unclear whether there would be a filter for bloggers wanting to post, which would discourage posting considerably.
One interesting passage:
Ms. Ephron, the writer, who is one of the bloggers, said it was this casual aspect of the venture that appealed to her. "The idea that one might occasionally be able to have a small thought and a place to send it, without having to write a whole essay, seems like a very good idea," she said.
She also sees the Post as a chance for the left to balance out the right.
"In the Fox era, everything we can do on our side to even things out, now that the media is either controlled by Rupert Murdoch or is so afraid of Rupert Murdoch that they behave as if they were controlled by him, is great," she said. But sometimes, she added, "I may merely have a cake recipe."
Ms. Walsh of Salon.com said that managing the politics of the site could be tricky. The initial enthusiasm is likely to be among the left, who feel like they are getting kicked by Drudge and the right, she said. But the blogosphere is independent and skeptical and rejects political cant, she said, adding, "You don't want to be doing predictable journalism and pandering to people."
The blog will not be up until May 9.
More at Tim Blair.
UPDATE: Ann Althouse commented earlier in the day.