Bill Keller Tries to Take Down Arianna Huffington, Fails

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As many imagined, it didn't take long for New York Times editor Bill Keller to prove why the guy who edits the paper may not be the best one to write its columns, too.

Witness his second column, appearing in this Sunday's Times Magazine. First, he spends the first half of the column employing false modesty to discuss how he's been named one of the 50 most powerful people in the world by Forbes magazine. Then, he takes on bloggers and so-called "media recyclers" — calling them “oxpeckers who ride the backs of pachyderms, feeding on ticks.” Finally, he takes on the sticky business of content aggregation, and sets his crosshairs squarely on Arianna Huffington, whom he calls the "queen of aggregation." So yes, he's out to make friends.

Huffington, he says, "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." Not the adorable kittens! And that $315 million AOL/Huffington Post merger? Says Keller, "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."

This afternoon, Huffington snapped back, whipping off a 1,200-word response to Keller, extolling the virtues of the Huffington Post, and refuting Keller's content-aggregation claims:


Even before we merged with AOL, HuffPost had 148 full-time editors, writers, and reporters engaged in the serious, old-fashioned work of traditional journalism. As long ago as 2009, Frank Rich praised the work of our reporters in his column. Paul Krugman more recently singled out the work of our lead finance writer. Columbia Journalism Review has credited our work for advancing the public’s understanding of the national foreclosure crisis, and a pair of our Washington reporters recently received a major journalism prize. Matthew Yglesias, Felix Salmon, Catherine Rempell, are among the many others have cited the work of our reporters. Did Keller not notice that?

And anyway, there's important work to do! "Okay, back to the merger," she ended her missive. And about that: All this squabbling comes on the same day that Huffington's new business partner, AOL, laid off around 20 percent of its workforce.

AOL CEO: Layoffs Today, Bright Future Ahead [PC World]
Bill Keller Writes Provocative Media Column From 1997 [Gawker]
Arianna Huffington To Bill Keller: Who You Calling “Oxpecker”? [All Things D]