Yes, contrary to much media speculation over the weekend that Mr. Beck’s next venture might be a run for political office, turns out he wants to join the crew of weary warriors in the world of online news gathering. His new website is dubbed "The Blaze.”
According to Beck, the site is intended to give folks a helping hand. “If you are like me,“ Beck said in a statement, “watching the news or reading the paper can be an exercise in exasperation. It's so hard to find a place that helps me make sense of the world I see."
"We want this to be a place where you can find breaking news, original reporting, insightful opinions, and engaging videos about the stories that matter most,“ he added.
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A project of Beck’s own company, Mercury, it is headed up by managing editor Scott Baker, who hails from Breitbart TV and “The B-Cast.”
The good, the bad, and the unprofitable?
Not surprisingly, The Blaze – like its founder – sparks strong emotions.
On the one side, there is political blogger Shel Horowitz, who writes about The Blaze in terms more commonly used in describing natural disasters. “The juxtaposition of ‘Glenn Beck’ and ‘honest source of information’ in the same sentence would be amusing, if it weren't scary," he writes in an e-mail. "Kind of like Fox calling itself ‘fair and balanced.' ”
But wait. There's more. Mr. Horowitz navigates his way to TheBlaze.com and offers a running commentary of its content. All he lacks, it seems, is a dart board with Beck's face.
The site “claims that MLK and the Democratic Party had/have a 'radical leftist agenda,' pays homage to the climate-change deniers, accuses Al Sharpton of racism, and claims that 70 percent of New Yorkers oppose the Ground Zero mosque (a figure I question),” Horowitz writes.
Other critics more closely aligned with Beck are, predictably, more complimentary. "The Blaze is off and to the races. I really like the look of this site," writes Erick Erickson of RedState.com. "It’s kind of a Huffington Post-y sort of Big Government/Daily Caller-y sort of news and blog site."
What The Blaze will ultimately be remains a mystery for now. Beck’s chances of making money with this venture are slim, given the lack of a proven and broadly applicable online business model, says branding expert Adam Hanft, who also blogs for sites such as the Huffington post.
“It remains to be seen whether Beck will yield to the web's furious cacophony of voices – can get comfortable with dissenting views presented without curation – or if The Blaze will occupy a much more narrow niche as a source of aggressive, pointed commentary alone,” Mr. Hanft says via e-mail.
'The power to persuade'
For Mr. Horowitz, The Blaze's first-day offerings leave little doubt. “The only real issue here is whether enough people will be deluded to think this is actually anything resembling honest news coverage," says Horowitz. "That could be a problem, just as it was when the New York Times' publication of Judith Miller's false reports in the run-up to the Iraq war helped to justify an illegal and arbitrary invasion.”
But in the virtually "anything goes" world of online journalism, where the liberal Huffington Post has no direct conservative counterweight, Beck's effort should not be easily dismissed, says Richard Goedkoop, a professor of communication at La Salle University in Philadelphia.
"We should care because he reaches a lot of people who seem to believe in what he says. So much so that he was able to get between 100,000 to 500,000 people (depending upon who you believe) to go to Washington to hear him this weekend," says Mr. Goedkoop in an e-mail. "That carries with it a degree of political power and the power to persuade. Whether or not he is a messiah or a demagogue will be decided in due course."