This article was updated on May 10, 2005.
The celebrity blog wars have begun.
Arianna Huffington’s much-hyped Internet venture, Huffingtonpost.com, burst into the blogosphere Monday and as immediately hit with a round of sniping.
The first day of posts featured mostly earnest and polite riffs on a range of topics befitting a daily newspaper’s op-ed page.
Never intended to be a gossip or Hollywood-ish outlet, Huffington’s endeavor instead was created to unify the creative community and provide a place for famous faces to wax over politics and current events (unlike its media-centric rivals, which offer rapid responses to news).
As for Huffington’s site, Mike Nichols pondered the art of storytelling and religious fundamentalism, and Brad Hall presented a tongue-in-cheek screed against gay marriage, arguing that samesex unions were destroying his union with Julia Louis-Dreyfus.
Marshall Herskovitz tied the fight over Senate filibusters to the “sanitizing” of movies; Russell Simmons wrote about the Million Man March and his work promoting better relations between the African-Americans and Jews.
In recent months, Gawker and Defamer have created a noisy echo chamber for media stories. They play fast and loose with rumors that mainstream media outlets spend days and weeks researching, lending a cavalier approach to traditional news cycles.
As for Huffington, the first reactions to her site were caustic. L.A. Weekly immediately deemed the blog “a horrific debut”; Defamer offered these thoughts at the end of its first look: “For the love of God, where is the picture comparing the facial expressions of the President to one of a monkey? These crazy kids have a lot to learn about blogging.”
Gawker waxed sarcastic over historian Arthur Schlesinger Jr.’s defense of Franklin Roosevelt and the Yalta agreement. “We admit we were skeptical at first, but the Huffington Post turns out to be everything its backers promised: conversational, witty, and up-to-the-minute.”
But, as promised, no mention of “biz” talk regarding book sales, Cannes, network upfronts, etc. Just famous people chatting about their favorite things and pet peeves.
Blogs do have certain advantages: They can respond to breaking news within minutes.
Their facts aren’t always accurate or easy to verify, but they sometimes bring expertise to arcane fields that the mainstream media can’t match.
Just ask Dan Rather and CBS News, whose “Memogate” problems were started in part by bloggers who spotted problems with supporting documents that “60 Minutes” researchers missed.
The blogosphere thrives not on being tony, but on its bottom-up, we’re-too-small-for-you-to-sue-us attitude, whether the subject is politics or the inner workings of Hollywood.
That’s something the Huffington Post can’t offer. Unlike most blogs, it features people who already have access to media platforms.
And the blogosphere has been expanding so rapidly recently that other celebs have created their own stages.
Thesp Wil Wheaton has a blog that chronicles his daily life and thoughts in detail; Forbes.com called it one of the best celebrity blogs. Meanwhile, Rosie O’Donnell offers her thoughts on whatever’s happening in her life in a kind of free verse.
The Huffington Post appears instead to be a vehicle for the commentator’s friends to weigh in on entertainment topics.
As Huffington put it on CNN’s American Morning on Monday, the contributors “will be blogging whenever
the spirit moves them.”