New York Times media editor Bruce Headlam was less than gracious after the sudden death of conservative media activist Andrew Breitbart, citing in a Times webcast “his willingness to push the limits of what he saw as journalism, what a lot of other people saw as just stunts and demagoguery.”
Media reporter Jeremy Peters wrote the official Times obituary Friday for Breitbart, who died suddenly at age 43 after collapsing while walking outside his home in Los Angeles: “Andrew Breitbart, Conservative Blogger, Dies at 43.” As a news story it was balanced, but compared to the usual Times obituary it was certainly critical, starting in the third paragraph:
Mr. Breitbart was as polarizing as he was popular. On the political right he was hailed in the same breath with Rush Limbaugh and Matt Drudge as a truth-teller who exposed bias and corruption. On the left, he was derided by many as a provocateur who played fast and loose with the facts to further his agenda.
That line also served as the text box to the story, harsh words for an obituary: “An online presence who was as polarizing as he was popular.”
Still, the Times gave Breitbart his due as a media revolutionary: “What Mr. Limbaugh was to radio and what Mr. Drudge was to the Internet, Mr. Breitbart was to online video and images.” The paper noted he helped Arianna Huffington launch the Huffington Post and gave him a backhanded compliment that he was a “more complex figure” than his liberal critics allowed, because he “supported gay rights.”
Media editor Bruce Headlam was less sympathetic in a webcast posted Thursday, which opened: “Andrew Breitbart was controversial, not for his polemics, which weren’t different than you’d find in a lot of other right-wing blogs, but his willingness to push the limits of what he saw as journalism, what a lot of other people saw as just stunts and demagoguery.”