BlogBeat: Denton’s High Marks, Newsweek’s Not-So-Secret Weapon, New Hires at Village Voice and Paris Review


Another Monday, another BlogBeat column. Hopefully, unlike last week’s column, this one won’t cost us $20,000 a year in advertising money. A former employment situation with Nick Denton and Gawker is assessed, the face behind Newsweek’s newest weapon talks, and new hires emerge at the Paris Review and the Village Voice. Here’s this week’s BlogBeat.

The Nick Denton Experience: Lockhart Steele, founder and publisher of Curbed Media – which includes food news blog Eater, real estate blog Curbed, shopping blog Racked, and travel blog Gridskipper — is experiencing a nice wave of press: He was recently profiled in the New York Times, replete with a picture of him standing on a chair. Nobody gets it. Today, MediaBistro unveiled some video interviews with Steele, the money quote, of course, being that Steele “loved working for Nick Denton,” back when he was the editorial director for Gawker Media’s sites and managing Curbed on the side. He noted:

“Nick has a certain public persona, where people sort of see him as this dark overlord. In fact he’s an incredibly creative guy, who tends to see Web trends coming faster than most people…For all of his public posturing or public imaging as the sort of gooney man of the blog world, he’s obviously the reason we’re all here in a lot of ways.”

Steele’s right. Denton’s often viewed as an evil media force because of his checkbook journalism, the firing of often beloved editors, and his company’s relentless ethos of picking writing targets without discretion, and firing away. But why should anyone have discretion in picking targets? Anything less than equal treatment would be favoritism, and nobody needs (or should want) to be reading that. Also, checkbook journalism is something everyone — even large networks like CNN and ABC — practices; at least he’s transparent about it. Finally, it’s his company, he can clean house whenever he wants. That’s his right. Were complaints about the treatment of writers as freelancers before Denton instituted full-time status for editorial staffers last year well-founded? Absolutely. But aside from that, Nick Denton’s employing writers, and paying them, which is more than so many other websites — who usurp writers’ talents in exchange for simply giving them bylines — can say. And as someone who used to work for him, I can say that any of his crituqes — which often came in the form of cutting, no-holds-barred e-mails — were never not correct and constructive. But they also didn’t pull punches.

The rest of Steele’s interview gets posted tomorrow. And for the record, everything outside of the Gawker quote’s far more interesting, but most people will gravitate toward it regardless, on name alone. I did.

Newsweek‘s New Weapon: Newsweek‘s got a Tumblr, the infamous micro-blogging service-cum-social network that’s hooked bands, writers, filmmakers, media personas, and old-school bloggers transitioning to something a little more user-friendly (and a little more connected to other people) than other platforms. Newsweek‘s Tumblr apparently has over 6,000 followers — quite a bit, for Tumblr — and it’s run by one guy: Mark Coatney, a projects editor for Newsweek. That’d explain the sometimes racier tone the Tumblr takes as opposed to the rest of Newsweek‘s content. Fishbowl New York posted an interview — a very, very long interview — with Coatney, who delivered with a money quote or nine for Tumblr, but chief among the best was this:

So what I hope with this is — the future of this is, whether it’s Tumblr or some other kind of thing like this — that in some way all news Web sites are going to be some kind of two-way communication and not some kind of “We put it out and you read it,” kind of thing.

I’d like to hear someone disagree with him.

Makin’ Moves: Late in the day, it was announced that Politico’s Michael Calderone is leaving Politico for Yahoo News. He’ll probably be overseeing or working with recent Yahoo get Brett “Cajun Boy” Dykes. Yahoo’s been culling great material and putting together their own solid stories, and during his time at Gawker, Dykes (as the sole night editor) demonstrated an awesome ability to pull solid traffic numbers night after night: he was the site’s most trafficked writer for three months straight. They’re building out a pretty solid news team over there.

Thessaly La Force, writer for The New Yorker‘s website, announced today on Twitter that she’ll be joining The Paris Review as their web editor. TPR doesn’t have much of a web presence right now, so it’d appear they’re trying to beef up their presence in light of the success that “literary” sites (like The New Yorker, The Morning News, The Rumpus, HTML Giant, and The Awl, et al.) have had.

Meanwhile, we’ve got our own addition announcement here at Runnin’ Scared: Formerly a managing editor at Radar, also of True/Slant, OK Magazine, AOL, and her own blog, Your Unemployed Daughter, we’d like to welcome Ms. Jennifer Doll into the fold. Jen and I are going to be manning the day-to-day mischief of Runnin’ Scared, and staff writers Tom Robbins, Steven Thrasher, Roy Edroso, Stacey Anderson, Graham Rayman, legendary Voice film critic J. Hoberman, Alexis Jeffries, Elizabeth Dwoskin, and Village Voice editor-in-chief Tony Ortega will continue to contribute regularly.