Bill Keller is back with another column in this weekend’s New York Times Magazine, and the NYT executive editor discusses why he’s become “50th most powerful person in the world” according to Forbes, while his reporters in the field – the men and women risking their lives – are overlooked.
The culprit: Aggregation.
After taking a shot at Arianna Huffington – “who has discovered that if you take celebrity gossip, adorable kitten videos, posts from unpaid bloggers and news reports from other publications, array them on your Web site and add a left-wing soundtrack, millions of people will come” – the Fox-trashing editor offers an anecdote about the woman who sold her company to AOL for $315 million.
“How great is Huffington’s instinctive genius for aggregation? I once sat beside her on a panel in Los Angeles (on — what else? — The Future of Journalism). I had come prepared with a couple of memorized riffs on media topics, which I duly presented. Afterward we sat down for a joint interview with a local reporter. A moment later I heard one of my riffs issuing verbatim from the mouth of Ms. Huffington. I felt so … aggregated.”
Keller also takes a jab at AOL’s acquisition, writing: “Buying an aggregator and calling it a content play is a little like a company’s announcing plans to improve its cash position by hiring a counterfeiter.”
But it ends happily when we start to pursue original reporting again.
“Then again, some of the great aggregators, Huffington among them, seem to be experiencing a back-to-the-future epiphany,” Keller writes. “They seem to have realised that if everybody is an aggregator, nobody will be left to make real stuff to aggregate. Huffington has therefore hired a small stable of experienced journalists, including a few from here, to produce original journalism about business and politics.”
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