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Friday, March 26, 2010

Felix Salmon Bitchsmacks Henry Blodget



The loathsome Henry Blodget, disgraced stock analyst turned financial blogger, engaged in a little Twitter war over John Carney's firing from Clusterstock, Business Insider's finance and gossip blog. According to FishbowlNY: "The general consensus seems to be that Carney is out because he, Blodget, and publisher Julie Hansen could not agree on how to cover and present stories. Blodget pushed for clicks through sensational headlines and features, like galleries, while Carney preferred focusing on breaking stories and in-depth reporting."

This is, ordinarily, just a little Howie Kurtz Reliable Sources sort of The-State-of-the-Media story. A tiny corridor of New Yorkers and maybe some DC and LA journos might be interested on a Sunday morning recap. That would then be all. However, respected business journo Felix Salmon got involved. And it got kind of interesting. Also interesting is the angle that Blodget has been on a sort of redemption kick -- totally understandable, considering his past and the hyper-selfconsciousness with journos regarding matters of ethics. Blodget, we cannot fail to note, has not been one of our favorites of late. His recent story unnecessarily racializing the hiring practices of the New York Times ("New York Times Pays Execs Extra To Hire Minorities And Women Instead Of White Guys") struck us as playing to the lowest instincts of his readership, quite frankly.

But let's leave that aside. Blodget's road to redemption may have hit a snag with Carney and Salmon. Both are respected, established names in a profession -- though embattled -- that has always regarded Blodget with suspicion. So he entered the fray at a disadvantage in how it all was going to be perceived. That having been said, he played a solid defense, successfully protecting his vitals. But he did take a pretty ferocious public beating.

At the outset the timeline as to which tweets followed exactly may not be right here -- Twitter's time approximations of actual entries aren't particularly clear -- but this is my best job at reconstructing the argument:

The battle began, in earnest, at about 12:30 EST on March 26th when Felix Salmon tweeted: ".@hblodget's business model: Take a story about M&A fees associated with AIG. Illustrate with 2 hot babes kissing. http://bit.ly/dexECw"

Oh, snap. Blodget responded: "@felixsalmon Well, if business model really the issue, can we have a $10 billion finance terminal cash-gusher to fund our newsroom with?"

Salmon returned: "@hblodget there are 2 journalistic issues here: the pic; and the fact that you're running boring stories."

Blodget responded: "@felixsalmon If you give us $10 billion a year to fund our newsroom, I promise we'll publish some stuff that you like to read."

Salmon returned: "@hblodget there was no reporting involved in this story, yet it involved a significant amount of time to write it & find a pic."

Salmon returned: "@hblodget @nicknotned rightly says that the old days of link-plus-snark are over. Replacing with link-plus-babes-kissing is self-defeating."

Salmon returned: "@hblodget it's like crack cocaine for blogs. You get a short-term high, but at the cost of long-term health and sustainability.

Blodget answered: "@felixsalmon And, by the way, one of the first things I'm going to do with that $10 billion is hire you. Because you're excellent."

Salmon returned: "@hblodget no."

Brutal. How does one come back from that?

Blodget tried: "@felixsalmon But we can't afford you if you just noodle around bashing people on Twitter all day"

Salmon returned: "@hblodget your business model became news when you fired @carney. That's why I blogged it http://link.reuters.com/qam25j and am tweeting it.

Salmon returned: "@hblodget and then the second thing you'll do is fire me. Because I don't create enough slide shows."

An intake of air, to put it all in perspective: ".@felixsalmon Okay, back to this glorious waste of time (thank goodness I'm the boss or my boss would be an idiot not to fire me)"

Then, the face-saving suck up: "(@)felixsalmon First, a confession: That tweet about firing you for not making slideshows was brilliant. I almost choked in sandwich line

Then: "@felixsalmon But of course it's not really about slide shows. It's about producing content people want to read"

And: "@ felixsalmon Specifically, unless you're subsidized by a trader-terminal, it's about being read by enough people to pay your $"

Also: "@felixsalmon And that's where, honestly, I would be a bit worried about hiring you. Because you don't seem to think that should matter

Salmon returned: "@hblodget damn, you're micromanaging me already, and you haven't even hired me yet!"

Blodget, seeing things are not going well, into ending things quickly: "@felixsalmon And now, unfortunately, although this is great fun, I have to get back to work. Because otherwise we're going to go bankrupt"

@felixsalmon And then you would have one less site whose journalistic standards and business strategy you can insult!

Salmon returned, at just after 1 pm today: "HuffBusiness BREAKING! @huffbusiness has done the deep investigation, and 88.7% of tweeters side with @felixsalmon over @hblodget (SLIDESHOW)

Jessica Pressler, as it turns out, got off the line of the day, tweeting-remarking: "Does anyone else find the @felixsalmon Twitter-duel with @hblodget over the honor of @carney incredibly romantic?"

There have been so few extended, high-profile real-time Twitter fights. The last really big one -- Perez Hilton versus Demi Moore -- also, curiously, was loosely based on cyber-ethics (namely: Should Perez have attacks Demi's underage daughter, Tallulah).

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