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Ujala Sehgal

Huffington Post Introduces ‘Blog Concierge Service’ for Celebrities

The days of blogging being a meritocracy are long over. At last Tuesday night’s “At Home With Arianna” event, an event that takes place in Arianna Huffington‘s Brentwood home, Executive Features editor Michael Hogan spoke of “new opportunities for celebrities to bring attention to their causes.” The platforms for celebrities at AOL Huffington Post include “AOL Moviefone, AOL Music, StyleList, HuffPost Green, or the soon-to-be-launched HuffPost Celebrity section.”

Huffington Post reported that at the event were celebrities and “long-time HuffPost bloggers Larry David and Rita Wilson, actor Shaun Toub, and actresses Rose McGowan and Jaime King.” Sure, we admire those celebrities for taking the time to write, because blogging can be hard work! But not anymore. At least not if you’re a celebrity. Arianna then touted the company’s “blog concierge service,” where “busy celebs can dictate a blog post to an editor over the phone for publishing on the site.”

You know who else could use a blog concierge service? Actual bloggers. Like us! All this typing is such a nuisance. Don’t rule it out, Ms. Huffington. We hear you still have money left in your budget.

New York Times Movie Review Slams ‘Page One: Inside the New York Times’

Michael Kinsley, senior editorial adviser for Bloomberg View, posted a film review of Andrew Rossi‘s documentary  “Page One: Inside the New York Times” in the movie review section of the Times today, and it’s scathing, to say the least. He writes that the movie is “in a word, a mess.”

The documentary stars Times journalists Brian Stelter, David Carr, and other Times major players, and though there have been some mixed reactions from Times insiders, it’s still jarring to see such a takedown of the film. Kinsley begins by ostensibly explaining why he is writing the review, which is that even though the people who put out the newspaper “know far more than I do about The Times and are better positioned to judge the movie,” there is a “conflict of interest.” He however knows “almost nothing about how The New York Times works.”

But then he adds: “Having seen “Page One,” I don’t know much more than I did before… It flits from topic to topic, character to character, explaining almost nothing.”

Here are some choice quotes:

The movie’s main theme, no surprise, is the struggle of The Times to survive in the age of the Internet. But it does little to illuminate that struggle, preferring instead a constant parade of people telling the camera how dreadful it would be if The Times did not survive. True, of course, but boring to the point of irritation after five or six repetitions.

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Arianna Huffington Fights Claims That She Is Spending AOL Into the Ground

Over a week ago, Jeff Bercovici at Forbes wrote a massive takedown of Arianna Huffington, focusing on the fact that, with Tim Armstrong‘s blessing, she was extravagantly hiring reporters and big names to the AOL-Huffington Post team, at a rate that might pose serious financial problems for the media company down the line. The questions Bercovici raised about expenditure at AOL-Huffington Post were similar to ones that analysts and shareholders are asking her at an investor day that AOL is holding right now. Bercovici posts her responses:

In response to an investor’s question about how “your interests are aligned with ours,” Huffington sought to defuse the notion that she’s on a shopping spree using AOL’s credit card. “I have a budget, and I have a long runway still in my budget,” she said. “I’m living within my means.”

“When we changed the freelancer model and let go of 90 percent of our freelancers, that budget became available to hire full-timers,” she said. “That’s the budget we’ve been using to hire. There has not been any increase in editorial budget. I inherited the budget that was there.”

As Bercovici notes, Huffington has hired some 75 new journalists since she arrived at AOL. That hiring was offset by the “by the dismantling of AOL’s network of more than 1,000 freelancers.” So Huffington’s claim that she is sticking to the budget is certainly reasonable. The only question is whether 75 reporters plus unpaid bloggers is worth more than 1,000 freelancers to a news organization. Tough to tell at this point, but it’s a compelling experiment for new media.

How the New York Times Really Feels About Its Portrayal in ‘Page One’

Overall, the reviews for Andrew Rossi‘s Page One: Inside the New York Times have been strong all around. It’s scoring an 81 percent on, and Lisa Schwarzbaum at Entertainment Weekly reviewed that “it’s not quite the same thrill as glimpsing the man behind the curtain of the great and powerful Oz, but for journalism junkies, the fascination of Page One: Inside The New York Times is something like that.” But for Rossi, just as important as the critics’ reactions are likely the reactions of the stars of the film at the Times. Thanks to New York magazine and Esquire, we were able to collect the inside scoop on how the men of the Times felt about the way they were portrayed. Here is what they have been saying:

David Carr: “If you want to signal to people that you’re a big jerk, walking around with a camera behind you is a good way to do it…but by the time the movie gets done, we look like action figures. Like, ‘WOW!’ But that really isn’t what our job is like.” (Daily Intel)

Brian Stelter: “It’s hard watching the version of myself that’s onscreen… When the film started production, I was 90 pounds heavier, and I lost weight as the film progressed, coincidentally. On the other hand, I’m glad I have a record of it.” (Daily Intel)

Bill Keller: “I saw an earlier edit of it. I found it kind of boring. I told Andrew [Rossi, the director], ‘As an editor, I think this piece would work better if you cut it down to 60 minutes.’ Then I realized that one reason I found it boring is that it seems very familiar.” (Esquire)

Bruce Headlam: “There are very few women in the documentary. There were women in my group — two out of about ten reporters. They didn’t want to cooperate.” (Daily Intel)

Tumblr Now Has As Many Bloggers at WordPress

WordPress has been around for 8 years. Tumblr has only been around for four. But as NPR reports, in the past six months, Tumblr has taken off, and its users have nearly tripled, with more than 7 million blogs.

Why is Tumblr so successful? Mark Coatney, who works at Tumblr, describes the Tumblr experience like this: “You’ll dash off an email or do a tweet or something like that because it’s quick and easy, so it’s kind of taking that thinking and applying it to blogging.”

“Quick and easy” seems to be a key part of Tumblr’s strategy. Many classify it as less a blogging platform, and more of a social network. Its growth has in part been powered by the idea of reblogging, similar to retweeting, according to Social Times. Mashable recently reported the introduction of a Tumblr button, similar to a tweet button and a Facebook “like” button, so users can share a link to an article or a website with just a click. If you want to be a blogger (and let’s face it, who doesn’t? We’re so glamorous!) then Tumblr is a way to do it with minimal effort and maximum immediate readership, because of its focus on community. Coatney’s job at Tumblr is even to help media outlets like The New York Times, Newsweek and The Huffington Post start their “tumblogs.”

A video interview with Coatney about social media and Tumblr’s interest in journalism from the Social Times is after the jump.

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‘Hamsterization’: The Official Term for What the Internet Has Done to Journalism

Matthew Lasar at Ars Technica writes about the fact that the Federal Communications Commission has come up with a term for the “ever growing set of digital duties” that journalists must perform: “hamsterization.” He asks: “Hey there newspaper reporter—has your broadband-powered job got you filing not only conventional stories, but blogging, video blogging, Facebooking, podcasting, picture posting, and Tweeting?”

If you answered yes, you are not alone. The FCC notes in its just released report on The Information Needs of Communities that “these additional responsibilities—and having to learn the new technologies to execute them—are time-consuming, and come at a cost.” Journalists now “typically face rolling deadlines as they post to their newspaper’s website before, and after, writing print stories.”

These “rolling deadlines” is where the hamster wheel metaphor comes in. The observation was first made by Dean Starkman in a Columbia Journalism Review piece titled “The Hamster Wheel.” Lasar writes:

The “Hamster Wheel” isn’t about speed, the report quotes Starkman as saying. “It’s motion for motion’s sake… volume without thought. It is news panic, a lack of discipline, an inability to say no.”

Journalists complain that where newsrooms used to reward in-depth stories, “now incentives skew toward work that can be turned around quickly and generate a bump in Web traffic.”

We have no idea what the FCC plans to do about this. But at the very least,  it’s nice to be acknowledged.

The New York Times Book Review Editors’ Summer Reading List

The editors of the New York Times Book Review (and there are surprisingly many of them!) get to read books constantly for work, in what we imagine is the perfect job. So what kind of a reader do you have to be to qualify? Recently, the editors assembled a summer reading list of the books they plan to read apart from the ones they have to read for work, and the few recurring themes gave us a little insight into how to be the type of reader that gets paid for it.

1. You can’t read everything. One comforting thing about the summer reading list was that it was full of books that many of us feel we are “supposed” to have read, but haven’t quite gotten around to yet. Copy editor Ihsan Taylor is yet to read Jonathan Franzen‘s “Freedom,” despite it being the most talked about book of the year. Preview editor Jennifer Schuessler is yet to finish Lydia Davis‘ translation of “Madame Bovary,” which was right under “Freedom” in terms of wisespread acclaim. And preview editor Jen McDonald may finally get around to reading “Infinite Jest,” one of the most talked about books of the last couple of decades. So it’s okay if you haven’t read everything! Summer is the time to catch up.

2. But you must read Melville’s “Moby Dick.” Deputy editor Bob Harris just read a book about “Moby Dick,” so plans to re-read the classic itself. And preview editor Gregory Cowles just finished “Moby Dick,” so plans to follow it up now with the related  “A Whaler’s Dictionary.”  Schuessler in turn hereby vows to finish reading Donovan Hohn’s “Moby-Duck,” the “tale of a flotilla of 28,800 bath toys let loose on the high seas.” Close enough.

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The Ethics of Reporting on Rep. Weiner’s Wife’s Pregnancy

For those of you have been following every sordid detail about the Anthony Weiner scandal, one major piece might have caught you off guard: how quickly mainstream media outlets like the New York Times reported that Weiner’s wife Huma Abedin was three months pregnant, based on the word of several sources. It’s a huge story, but normally details like that are left to the tabloid trade. Politico’s On Media takes a look at the difficult decision news outlets faced in reporting this story.

The news that Anthony Weiner’s wife, Huma Abedin, is pregnant had been known and agonized over in newsrooms, including this one, for more than 24 hours before it was reported on Wednesday night… For the New York Times, which broke the story, the decision was not a quick one. The paper published the story a little after 5 p.m. Wednesday night on its City Room blog after Gawker published an item saying it had heard that Abedin was pregnant.

Phil Corbett, the Times’s standards editor, emailed Politico: “We try to be sensitive to privacy concerns, and we weighed that issue here, too. But Weiner’s problems were obviously a big story, and his actions and words had clearly put himself, his private life and his marriage squarely into the news.”

He also made clear that the decision was the Times‘ own. “We don’t take our cues from Gawker on a story like this.”

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The Huffington Post Has Just Passed the New York Times in Web Traffic

Update: Business Insider confirms the data from Comscore that Huffington Post has “zipped past the New York Times in monthly uniques,” and provides a chart showing the overtaking. They also add this provocative tweet from AOL employee Brad Garlinghouse: “Six years to disrupt 100 years.”

Has this apocalyptic event finally occurred? At, Adam Clark Estes reports that an anonymous Huffington Post editor said that the website passed in traffic for May. As additional confirmation, he points to Tony Conrad‘s tweet that “Comscore confirmed that traffic for May has surpassed traffic for first time — 35.5MM vs. 33.59MM.” We will update once we’ve heard the official figures from Comscore.

Of course, to a great degree this is expected after the New York Times paywall. But amid all the speculation this week of how the AOL-Huffington Post merger is crashing down on Arianna Huffington‘s well-coiffed head, this is no doubt something she can gloat about, considering her long-standing rivalry with the Times.


Help the New York Times Read Through Sarah Palin’s Emails

In terms of juicy reading, you can’t get any better than this: on Friday, the State of Alaska is releasing more than 24,000 of Sarah Palin’s e-mails that will cover much of her tenure as the governor of Alaska. Because Palin frequently used her personal email to cover state business, including with her husband, those emails have been determined to be public record, reports the New York Times. Since practically everything Palin does is considered news as it is, her personal emails as governor are a veritable goldmine.

But the problem is that there are just so many of them! So the Times is actually turning to crowd-sourcing, and asking its readers for help sifting through the documents in its race to get the best stories out first. The Times‘ Caucus blog posts this unusual request:

Times reporters will be in Juneau, the state capital, to begin the process of reviewing the e-mails, which we will be posting on starting on Friday afternoon E.D.T. We’re asking readers to help us identify interesting and newsworthy e-mails, people and events that we may want to highlight. Interested users can fill out a simple form to describe the nature of the e-mail, and provide a name and e-mail address so we’ll know who should get the credit. Join us here on Friday afternoon and into the weekend to participate.

So if you’ve ever had a secret ambition to do some investigative journalism for the Times, see your name credited in the paper, or just gossip incessantly about Sarah Palin, this one is for you.