'Beast'-ly Reader: Wingnuts, Murdoch's Mission, More Daily Beast Editor-in-Chief Tina Brown shares the best reads about the evolution of the written word. Three of her recommendations involve the reinvention of publishing, and one will show you how to keep the "wingnuts" from getting you down.

'Beast'-ly Reader: Wingnuts, Murdoch's Mission, More

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Tina Brown, of the Daily Beast,�is back with us again. Think of her as your personal reader, suggesting stuff to read in magazines, online and elsewhere. We call the feature Word of Mouth.

Hi, Tina.

Ms. TINA BROWN (Editor-in-Chief, Daily Beast): Good morning, Steve.

INSKEEP: And the first item on your list here is from New York Magazine. It's called "The Raging Septuagenarian." And there's a big photo of Rupert Murdoch.

Ms. BROWN: Yes, indeed. It's a very, very good piece, a profile by Gabriel Sherman about where Rupert is right now in this arch of his wonderful, predatory, swashbuckling media career - because he's, oddly enough, becoming more and more assertive, really, as he heads for the dying of the light, as opposed to backing off.

INSKEEP: Now, Rupert Murdoch is best known perhaps in the United States because he is the godfather, the owner, the man in charge of Fox News - his news corporation is, in any case. But, of course, he also bought, recently, the Wall Street Journal, and that gets to what's sort of the theme of those recommended readings you have for us today: the evolution of the written word. And Murdoch has forced an evolution in the Wall Street Journal, hasn't he?

Ms. BROWN: He really has. And what I love about Rupert, actually - and incidentally, Rupert had a big battle with my own husband when he was editor of the Times of London, which ended in my husband quitting. But my husband also -Harry Evans - he also does feel, as I do, that you have to admire the way - he is sort of the last guy standing who believes in print.

And just when everybody else has completely bitten into the digital revolution, which Rupert, of course, is also very much caught up in, he has bought the Wall Street Journal - the good-old, low-tech Wall Street Journal - and is expanding the newspaper. So he's engaged on a really wonderful, old-fashioned Hearst-ian newspaper war, all of a sudden, with the New York Times.

INSKEEP: Well, let's move onto another article where someone tries to read the future, Jason Epstein. In the New York Review of Books,�there's an article here called "Publishing: The Revolutionary Future."

Ms. BROWN: Yes. This is a very interesting piece by Jason, particularly because Jason himself is one of the great, old, print publishers, you know. And he's written this piece in the New York Review of Books about the digital future for publishing, which he is mostly excited about. What frightens Jason, though, is the notion that the digital explosion - which is absolutely a way that he's rolling - is going to destroy the notion of the hard-copy book completely.

He says that the whole fragility of life online is such that, what would happen if all of a sudden, we weren't to have hard-copy books anymore? With one terrible, sabotage thrust, you could wipe out the whole of our cultural civilization by simply eliminating books. That's a fearful notion.

More important, he talks about the fragility of copyright, and how we have to preserve this or we're going to impoverish writers and not allow - have any content there to write about.

INSKEEP: I'm interested in the idea that he thinks that stuff that is online is fragile, though. Aren't people actually concerned that any old photograph or statement that turns up online is just going to live forever?

Ms. BROWN: Well, people are very concerned about it. I think that he's right, though, that the hard copy as a repository of our civilization is extraordinarily important to maintain as well. But we should be regarding these publishing efforts as both electronic and hard. In fact, weve just being doing this - the Daily Beast - with Beast Books, where weve launched electronic imprint that also becomes paperbacks.

INSKEEP: The book that you mentioned is called "Wingnuts," by John Avlon. Why would you want to be in book publishing, given the difficulty of that business right now?

Ms. BROWN: Well, we launched Beast Books because we felt that doing a site like the Daily Beast, where we respond fast and furiously to the news, doesn't allow writers who have great material to then sit down and do a more reflective piece that's longer. In John Avlon's case, he's been right on the ground floor with the Tea Party movement. He has really covered this subject so well and so intensely for us that I said to him John, do a book that pulls all this together. Well, he did it and its called "Wingnuts," which is his term for the people who are tearing America apart, really, with partisan paranoia. And it...

INSKEEP: And by the way, I should mention that Keith Olbermann, the liberal commentator, seems to have made the cover of this book along with Sarah Palin and Glenn Beck. He doesnt seem to have too much respect - judging by the cover -for the left, either.

Ms. BROWN: Well, no. Actually, one of the things that's really quite good about Avlon is that he has no time for wingnuts of any persuasion. And this book, "Wingnuts," is a kind of a battle cry to the sensible middle, if you like, to become as radically motivated as the people on the left and right.

INSKEEP: Youve sent us another recommended read from the New Republic. The headline is "Washington Diarist: The New Proles," P-r-o-l-e-s.

Ms. BROWN: Well, this is a great, great piece by Leon Wieseltier, who is the literary editor of the New Republic. And he's written a wonderful column - which really dovetails, a little bit, about what Jason Epstein has been saying - where he talks about how the big problem with this glorious digital revolution is the impoverishment of writers. I've always felt you cannot have writers writing anything for free.

I'm a writer myself, and I dont believe you'd ever ask a doctor for a free checkup. Why on earth would you ask a writer to do so? And we certainly pay people. But Leon is writing about how sad it has become, that writers have become the crud of the digital revolution. They're paid so little to blog, they're paid so little to contribute to these Web sites, that they can scarcely make a living and are becoming, literally, an impoverished class. And he says, the penniless internships are paid, leaving the fortunately born to become the fortunately hired.

INSKEEP: Well, I'm curious. You run a site that commissions original journalism, that pays people to go cover stories. But youre also an aggregator, passing on things. And someone might accuse you, in some sense, of getting credit for other people's writing. How do you manage that difficulty?

Ms. BROWN: Well, we are 60 percent original and - well, really, 70 percent original; only 30 percent aggregated. We always credit - drive people to the link.

INSKEEP: Mm-hmm.

Ms. BROWN: And we do pay writers to write for the Daily Beast. Is it as much as we used to pay in magazines? Absolutely not. And certainly, one would like to feel that as the financial model of the content online gets real solidity, that we will be able to pay writers more. I would certainly like to. If youre looking to try to do lengthy, investigative journalism of the kind that Woodward and Bernstein did, then youre going to need the budget of a newsroom, and then youre going to have to pay people really well. But for journalists in the future, they have to be able to do these investigations and - otherwise, our society is going to suffer.

INSKEEP: "Word of Mouth," from Tina Brown. Always a pleasure to talk with you.

Ms. Brown: Thank you so much, Steve.

INSKEEP: She is editor-in-chief of the Daily Beast.

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INSKEEP: And you can find links to all of Tina Brown's recommended reads at NPR.org. You can also find them through our Twitter feeds. You can follow this program at MORNING EDITION and @nprinskeep.

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