The beast

I’m at the Online News Association hearing Tina Brown talk about her Daily Beast. She told me last night it will capture the daily zeitgeist with editors–more than 20 of them–rather than algorithms.

She throws over her past in print. She says it is good to work online in a medium that is “vibrant with life instead of constantly obsessed with fears of its own extinction.”

“Old war stories about the glories of media in the past,” is no longer exciting. “Yes, it was great but hey, it’s over. The tipping point has happened.”

She confesses being new to the web world. She’d never heard the word “wireframe” and says that tech geniuses are in another hemisphere. She recalls having scoops to hold onto in print but that day is over. She is happy not to be boxed in in presentation. She discovers the new world. She’s a convert.

She discovers “citizen journalism” as well but she cites big media efforts to get contributions rather than citizens’ enterprises. It’s a paragraph taken from some speech in 2004.

Now she gets to her pitch. Wind up: “People seeking to be informed are becoming increasingly overwhelmed.” Cue the stats about how many blogs and YouTube videos there are. She said that at the Democratic convention, everybody was filming everybody else: “a hall of mirrors.” Now she quotes Nick Davis bemoaning “churnalism.” Methinks she’ll cure.

She says we fear we’re going to miss that special moment of news. She says there’s so much we can’t believe: splogs, flogs, and misinformation. “That’s the part that scares me the most.”

Tina to the rescue. “What can we do to cut thorugh all this static, fake stuff, and noise…. There’s nothing wrong with algorithms. They’re fantastic…. It is the time for editors to reassert themselves ot curate in a more rigorous way.

Forward to the past. She praises other aggregators — Real Clear Politics, HuffPo, Arts & Letters Daily — “but there is still room, I think, for more metaaggregation with a distinctive voice just as there was always room for another magazine with a distinctive point of view.”

She says they started development eight weeks ago and hope to be up in the early fall. The launch will be evolutionary, she says, with new features up every 4-6 weeks.

She offers a site for “the news junkie who wants a speedy scan of the zeitgeist.”

She says her job as an editor was the write clever billings and headlines to get readers to read stories they wouldn’t otherwise read. The first duty of the journalist whether in print or online or no TV is to attract interest, she says. The next is to bring skepticism.

One underestimates Brown at one’s peril. From the sound of it, it’s magazine-think to the web, editing the world. For the proof, I’ll await the pudding.

In questions, she says she wants people who will forego the wisdom of the crowd to have their own take.

She says “there has to be pushback” against big-media companies hiring young people without experience and making writers put out too much. “It will indeed destroy their brands.”

It’s all very magazinethink.

“I think this period where anybody thought that anybody could write a posting for a venerable brand is a terrible mistake…. There hasn’t been enough pushback from the creative world…. The great con of the 20th and 21st century is the way that talent has been exploited by this technology boom….”

A journalism student asks for advice. She’s a print student but she’ll take a job in print, online, anything. “Well, you’re an easy lay, aren’t you,” says Tina, who advises not to go to a big company like Time Inc, where “you’ll be making big-media slugs coffee all day long.”

One person from the audience tries to hear more about her business plan. Tina won’t talk about it. Another tries to get her to talk about her video strategy. She won’t talk about it, saying she doesn’t want to give Forbes any ideas I get up and ask her to give us some idea of what the Daily Beast will be and she cuts me off and she she won’t talk about it. “I don’t want to give a press conference about The Daily Beast.”

As I sit down, the friend next to me says, “She’s a tough lay.”