Oct 22, 2012 No Comments ›› Dinah Tellya
Here’s a screenshot of how Team Breitbart responded:
Excerpted from Ben Smith’s piece in today’s Buzz Feed: Less than a year after the sudden death of the conservative provocateur and pioneering blogger Andrew Breitbart, the web empire he had begun to build under his own name is plagued by an unusual degree of disorganization and rampant infighting as his disciples battle for ownership of his legacy, according to current and former employees, and people close to the company.
Breitbart spent the beginning of 2012 feverishly working to overhaul his website, transforming it from an aggregator of newswire stories into a splashy, tabloid-style landing page featuring content from his scrappy network of “Big” blogs: Big Government, Big Journalism, Big Peace, and Big Hollywood. He was days away from the relaunch when his heart failed on March 1 in Los Angeles — shocking the online right that worshipped him, and the liberals who loved fighting with him.
Publicly, his staff showed a united front. After the funeral on March 6, 10 of the website’s editors posed for a picture together, and posted it to Instagram with the hashtag #war. “We took that picture to say, ‘Hey! We’re still here,’” editor Mike Flynn told Slate’s Dave Weigel at the time. “We’re going to carry out Andrew’s vision.”
Their stated goal — to become “the Huffington Post of the right” — was ambitious, but Breitbart.com is, at least, now competing in the traffic wars on the right. For the first time this September, Breitbart.com topped it main rivals on the right — The Daily Caller, Weekly Standard, National Review, Pajamas Media, and Hot Air — in traffic, with 2.9 million unique visits in September, according to comScore. That’s still less than 10 percent of The Huffington Post’s traffic, but a record for the site, which had endured fewer than half that many visitors in the months of April, May, and June.
But insiders say that a few strong months of traffic, aided by regular, loyal Drudge links, have masked deeper problems. The portrait that emerged from multiple interviews with sources at the site and in its orbit was one of a disorganized, downtrodden army of conservative foot soldiers eager to carry out their fallen leader’s mission, but deeply divided over how to interpret his battle plan.
“We were running a kind of happy cult when Andrew was in charge, and when Andrew died everyone had an incentive to spin what they thought he was up to,” said one former employee. “If he knew he was going to die, I’m sure he would have called a dinner the night before and given us the tablets or something…. But he didn’t.”
(Breitbart.com has described BuzzFeed as “a left-wing rag;” has turned our editor’s name into a verb, “Bensmithing,” meant to describe a sophisticated form of journalistic malpractice in which damaging facts about Democrats are reported as a means of covering them up; has repeatedly referred to this reporter as a “media-approved Mormon;” has accused us of editing a hug out of a video to protect President Obama; has accused us of conducting “partisan strategy” to protect President Obama; and has written, according to a search of their site, 396 posts attacking BuzzFeed.)
There is also a sense that some of its highest-profile contributors may be drifting away. Dana Loesch, a CNN contributor who is the face of the Breitbart empire these days and its only veritable TV star, hasn’t written a post in more than a month — and one source said she has sought a job at The Daily Caller. Asked about the situation, Breitbart editor-in-chief Joel Pollak said she was “still a contributor” but declined to comment further. Loesch did not respond to specific questions about her employment prospects. In any case, she remains a major player in the fight to define Breirtbart: her husband, for instance, produced the music in the recently-released tribute documentary Hating Breitbart.
But at the center of the new Breitbart.com is a small circle of business partners who took control of the company and, by default, the rights to Breitbart’s legacy after his death.
Larry Solov, Breitbart’s best friend and longtime confidante, became CEO; Steven Bannon, who made his name last year for directing a documentary defending Sarah Palin from her critics, became executive chairman; and Joel Pollak, an unsuccessful congressional candidate from Illinois and Harvard Law School protégé of Alan Dershowitz who began as lead counsel for the company, is now editor-in-chief. Conservative commentator Ben Shapiro also serves as editor-at-large, and his byline is a mainstay on the homepage.
Without Breitbart’s larger-than-life persona holding it together, fault lines quickly began to form on staff. Solov, Pollak and a few others run the company from an office in L.A., but the site’s contributors are spread across the country — and many complain that the editors are all but impossible to reach.