MELISSA BLOCK, host:
The conservative online news entrepreneur Andrew Breitbart has come into his own in recent months. That's thanks in part to an outrageous protege and his love of a good brawl.
NPR's David Folkenflik reports.
DAVID FOLKENFLIK: At first glance, sure, Andrew Breitbart fits the blogger cliches. He's 41. He works barefoot in his own basement, where two of his kids bound in at will.
Unidentified Child: I'm weaving a basket.
Mr. ANDREW BREITBART (Blogger, Breitbart.Com): What?
Unidentified Child: I'm weaving a basket.
Mr. BREITBART: Hey, Charlie...
FOLKENFLIK: Truth be told, the basement has got great light and a decent view of the west side of Los Angeles. And Breitbart is hardly an isolated figure, what with 98,000 unread e-mails.
Mr. BREITBART: I don't know what to do. I have senators, governors, congressmen, major Academy Award-winning actors; they think that I'm blowing them off. Nothing could be further from the truth.
FOLKENFLIK: An assistant sits across from the room helping him funnel wire stories on his main news site Breitbart.com. And Breitbart has hired a handful of editors to help run a family of conservative blogs called BigGovernment.com, BigHollywood.com and BigJournalism.com. The media is a prime target throughout.
Mr. BREITBART: They want to control the narrative, and so they're making sure that everybody agrees with everybody, and everybody is using the same talking points. And I'm saying: no more. The new media has freed it up. I'm sorry, mainstream media, it's over. Your ability to control the narrative is over.
FOLKENFLIK: By narrative, of course, he means what stories are worth covering and how they're covered.
Over the past week, the mainstream media devoted tons of coverage to Breitbart's protege, the 25-year-old conservative video provocateur James O'Keefe. He was arrested last Monday in New Orleans and charged with trying to get into a Democratic senator's offices under false pretenses to commit a felony. And he's under contract to write for BigGovernment.com. Breitbart says he knew nothing of the incident beforehand. But instead of backing down, he's returning fire.
Mr. BREITBART: MSNBC and The Washington Post go nuts trying to grant terrorists at a time of war all of the rights under the world while James O'Keefe gets arrested and they're already framing him.
Professor GLENN REYNOLDS (College of Law, University of Tennessee): What Andrew really does better than anybody is he brings the excitement.
FOLKENFLIK: Glenn Reynolds is a University of Tennessee law professor, perhaps better known as the conservative blogger InstaPundit.com. He says conservatives and libertarians shattered by President Obama's election had been invigorated by Breitbart's willingness to mix it up.
Prof. REYNOLDS: He is a showman and he is an expert in understanding how media people and political people think, and turning that into a kind of jujitsu that works to his advantage in a real big way.
FOLKENFLIK: Breitbart comes by that knowledge honestly. He's a native Angelino and hung around Hollywood, getting turned off by what he says is its smothering liberalism. He became a lead editor for Matt Drudge on the "Drudge Report" and through him worked for Arianna Huffington while she was a conservative columnist. So, amazingly enough, he also helped launch the liberal Huffington Post after her transformation.
Mr. BREITBART: I said to Arianna, you could take your salon and your Rolodex and you could have these people write for you and create a virtual salon.
FOLKENFLIK: He soon returned to work with Drudge, but built up Breitbart.com as the landing spot for people who clicked on many of the Drudge Report's links, adding a lot of copy from news services and a second site with video stories. Nielsen now estimates his monthly audience at three million unique visitors, an audience that rivals that for Drudge.
Breitbart launched BigGovernment with O'Keefe's now infamous undercover ACORN videos, seemingly showing workers for the community activist group aiding a couple who sought to create a ring of underage prostitutes.
Mr. BREITBART: And the mainstream media did everything that it could not to report that story, but we knew that going in. So the entire strategy of dripping out the videos, one after the other, waiting for ACORN to lie about it and the mainstream media to ignore it, created an unbelievable pressure in the under-media, which is A.M. talk radio and the blogosphere.
FOLKENFLIK: Breitbart says this is a new form of journalism. And no less a figure than Clark Hoyt, the public editor of The New York Times, rebuked the paper for failing to inform readers promptly about the ACORN videos and their consequences. But reporters typically have ethical guidelines against misrepresenting themselves. And when liberal critics at such outfits as Media Matters or Talking Points Memo raise questions about accuracy and fairness, Breitbart just goes on the offensive. Yet Hoyt says he has reservations about Breitbart's approach.
Mr. CLARK HOYT (Public Editor, The New York Times): It is primarily, I believe, aimed at trying to score ideological points. It's not about the broader mission that I think organizations like The Times set for themselves, which is broadly informing the public.
FOLKENFLIK: The irony is that Breitbart relies heavily on mainstream news organizations for his own sites, even as he's tearing them apart.
David Folkenflik, NPR News.
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