Monday, December 29, 2014

For Sale: Baby Shoes, Never Worn.

The title of this post is, in its entirety, the "saddest short story ever" which Ernest Hemingway was alleged to have written on a bet.


In the rain.

Actually, the Hemingway part is made-up, but still, pretty good story.

It also makes a pretty apt title for the obit for the Great Thing That Never Was...
The Guerrilla Tactics of The Racket, and How It Almost Upended Journalism
BY MAT HONAN   12.15.14

In September, when it wasn’t quite autumn in New York but after the long hot summer had ended, I rode up an elevator in New York’s Flat Iron district to the offices of First Look Media to meet with the guerrilla editors of The Racket. The Racket has since folded, without ever launching. Which is a shame, not only because it had built a great team full of interesting writers, but also because it was going to be a lot of fun.

The Racket was to be a showcase for Matt Taibbi,the Rolling Stone reporter who made a name for himself running a newspaper in Russia before becoming one of the financial industry’s harshest critics. Taibbi hired great, voicey, no-bullshit editors like Alex Pareene and Edith Zimmerman. The plan was to make an Internet magazine that mixed hard-hitting reporting and in-depth features with wicked, Spy magazine-style satire. And the occasional kitten video.

But The Racket is dead now. Its parent, First Look Media, put a bullet in it and dumped the body with a short blog post. Buh-bye. First Look is financed by Pierre Omidyar, an eBay founder, who last year announced he was dropping hundreds of millions into a new media organization.

The Racket wanted to be prankish and fun. But all that lampooning would be in the service of satirizing what they saw as bad journalism.

Bad journalism, in The Racket’s eyes, was a publication like The New Republic. While TNR has managed to outlast The Racket by about 100 years, it’s had its own turmoil recently, after its owner (Facebook co-founder Chris Hughes) clumsily canned editor-in-chief Franklin Foer in order to replace him with an editor who once ran Gawker, then watched as two thirds of the staff and writers walked out in protest.

But way back in September, and really throughout this past summer, The Racket already was going at Foer in its own quiet, yet suitably obnoxious, way. After noticing that he had fewer than 10,000 followers on Twitter, they bought him 100,000 in chunks of a few thousand at a time—although the number was in constant flux because Twitter kept zapping the bot accounts. The point to all of it was … well … They didn’t really seem to have one? Other than that Foer represented the kind of conventional thinking and anodyne voice that was at the helm of too many old media properties. So the plan, they said, was to mess with him by buying him the kind of large following the editor of something like The New Republic deserved—and then some. “We want to make him the Justin Bieber of centrist beltway journalism,” said Taibbi.
Boy, it sure sounds like it woulda been fun.

Too bad they snuffed it in utero.

For Sale: New Media, Never Born.


stickler said...

It didn't help that Taibbi is a misogynistic dick.

Mike Lumish said...

Like they say, a quarter billion of techdude capital buys a mountain of hookers and blow. With that kind of cash in hand, why bother going through the motions of putting together any kind of media operation at all?

Regards, Horace

Ebon Krieg said...

America is the last refuge of the superstar. We created it and we have nourished it through the ages... We have even tried to export it with our own brand of "friendly" neo-imperialism.

What we fail to observe or listen to are the harmonics of change. USA as a brand (we created that term btw) is a dinosaur. We are still dynamic in our financial industry, but we lack any redeeming value in anything else. Shuffling money is fun at the top, but what is the point?

Humans are very dynamic. It is what we do. We adapt and change. Brand USA still believes in bully shit. We shall see...