Last night, according to Mediaite, FOX News star Glenn Beck unleashed his very own news site called TheBlaze.com. The site launch follows Beck’s Restoring Honor rally in Washington, D.C., which was held on the steps of the Lincoln Memorial and attended by maybe 78,000 people, or perhaps 500,000, depending on who you ask. Whether it was a few hundred thousand or not, Mr. Beck has a concrete following which more or less guarantees heavy traffic to his new site. But, with his own radio show, talk show, best-selling books and his existing website at glennbeck.com, why does Mr. Beck also need a news site?
According to him, it is because “too many times we find mainstream media outlets distorting facts to fit rigid agendas” and “there comes a time when you have to stop complaining and do something.” However, the site seems to be anything but independent of an agenda. According to the “actual journalists” writing for The Blaze, UCSD professors are trying to dissolve the nation through a mobile GPS application which includes “poerty” (sic)–all of which is reported to us through a mashup video of interview and presentation snippets, mostly from 2009, provided with no context. And, New York Times columnist Ross Douthat’s statement that he might have underestimated Glenn Beck counts as a news item on The Blaze. In fact, as of this writing, the top five most popular pieces on the site mention Glenn Beck in their titles. I read the biographies of the four members of the editorial staff, and can’t find any credentials which separate these “actual journalists” from pretty much anyone else who might claim to be a journalist. Most notable of them all is Managing Editor Scott Baker, co-founder of Breitbart.tv, lately famous for the Shirley Sherrod debacle. The “Message from Glenn” implies that putting together a news site in just two months which is worthy of his lofty ideals should stand as a point of pride. I understand it as, at best, an explanation for the quality of the site. At worst, it’s a disclaimer.
I’m not going to take away anyone’s right to start their own website; it’s one of the things I love most about the Internet. And, I’m certainly not going to claim that all liberal-minded news outlets represent a journalistic ideal–The Huffington Post is quite far from perfect. What makes The Blaze so ridiculous to me is Mr. Beck’s assertion that the site strives for transparency, and, as implicated by its mere existence, that it is filling some kind of need.
I’ll grant that The Blaze is only a few hours old, so perhaps my criticism of it as a legitimate news source comes too soon. Still, If Mr. Beck wants to do something new, and really confront the inadequacies he finds in mainstream media, he would do better to encourage critical media literacy rather than add to the noise he claims to hate.