article

10.05.08

Q and A with Tina Brown

The founder and editor-in-chief of The Daily Beast explains what it is.

What is The Daily Beast?

It's a speedy, smart edit of the web from the merciless point of view of what interests the editors. The Daily Beast is the omnivorous friend who hears about the best stuff and forwards it to you with a twist. It allows you to lead the conversation, rather than simply follow it. ( Watch Tina Brown discuss The Daily Beast on Good Morning America.)

Does the world really need another news aggregator?

The Daily Beast doesn't aggregate. It sifts, sorts, and curates. We're as much about what's not there as what is. And we freshen the stream with a good helping of our own original content from a wonderfully diverse group of contributors … satirist Christopher Buckley, historian Sean Wilentz, former McCain adviser Mark McKinnon, Project Runway’s Laura Bennett, the former editor of Al-Hayat Salameh Nematt, Facebook’s Randi Zuckerberg, Nick Ciarelli who founded Think Secret, and many others.

What's with the name?

Among other things, it's the name of the newspaper in Scoop, Evelyn Waugh's hilarious satire of Fleet Street, which happens to be my favorite novel of all time. For those who prefer Henry James, let's just say the beast knows its way through the jungle.

When you were born, the smallest computer was the size of a subway car. Aren't you a little old to be doing a web startup?

Yeah, I'm a real dinosaur. Dinosaurs are big, though. Maybe another reason to call it The Daily Beast.

Why should I visit you when there’s already Slate/Drudge/Huffington Post/TPM/Google News and every other magazine and newspaper?

Sensibility, darling.

Anyway, you don't have to use it instead. Just use it first. I shall certainly continue with my own forays around the web. But we all have only one pair of eyes and ears. We're hoping that if you like the sensibility The Daily Beast brings to choosing news and opinion then you'll trust us to be the lens you view it through.

You burned through millions at Talk. Are you going to bankrupt Diller?

Even I don't know how to spend money that fast.

Are you doing this because you're jealous of Arianna Huffington?

Not entirely, though I have always followed Arianna's career with the liveliest interest. She is a very old friend, going back to when she was at Cambridge and I was at Oxford. I love what she has achieved at HuffPo. And her partner Ken Lerer, another old friend, has also been a total mensch about the birthing of our beast.

I heard you make your assistant print out the Internet for you. Is that true?

The Internet is too big to print out. That's the whole point.

You've only done print. What makes you think you understand the web?

I'm not completely sure how a printing press works, but that never stopped me. Anyway, you don't have to be an oceanographer to love surfing. And I’m surrounded by some talented web experts, including our general manager Caroline Marks, who was in charge of social media at Comcast, our site developers Code and Theory, and Michael Jackson and Nick Lehman of IAC.

One thing I think I do understand about the web is that it morphs with amazing speed. The Daily Beast will evolve before your eyes. We began building our site in mid-July and wanted to put it up ASAP in beta so that its further development could be driven by the interplay between our sensibility and our users’ responses; for example through our Feed The Beast feature.

Do you actually read anything online? If so, what?

A lot. I'm always checking in with HuffPo, Drudge, RealClearPolitics, Talking Points Memo, Politico, Andrew Sullivan, Hendrik Hertzberg, The Smoking Gun, TMZ, Hungry Girl, The Guardian, Paid Content, Arts and Letters Daily, Matt Yglesias, First Post, BBC, Romenesko, Head Butler … Aargh … Stop me before I read more …

Was quitting The New Yorker the biggest mistake of your life?

To every thing (turn turn turn) there is a season. If I'd stayed at The New Yorker I'd never have written a best seller. More important, there'd be no such animal as The Daily Beast. I have the best of both worlds. I can edit The Daily Beast and read The New Yorker.

Why join IAC? Why not launch The Daily Beast as a standalone endeavor?

I have always wanted to work with Barry Diller, period. I have known him for 20 years and admire his audacity, acumen, and vision. He has wanted to launch a site like this for a while and for me it makes total sense to have the expertise and the muscle of his company behind us.  Plus IAC has this really cool building in Chelsea close to some of the best cupcake bakeries in town.

Did you recruit your editorial team over breakfast at Michael's?

No, over breakfast at the Empire Diner on 10th Avenue and trust me, it's a dream team. We are a dozen altogether. Edward Felsenthal, our executive editor, came from the Wall Street Journal, as did our managing editor, Jane Spencer. Senior editors Bryan Curtis and Nicholas Wapshott came from Slate and the Sun, home page editor Henry Seltzer from USmagazine.com, features editor Will Doig from Nerve.com. Plus we’ve got a cadre of brainiac gremlins fresh out of school.

Why are reporters so mean to powerful women?

Don't worry. Powerful women always interpret hostility as unrequited love.