In a transparent play to give the website a veneer of credibility, Breitbart.com has hired Wall Street Journal reporter John Carney to head up its new finance and economics section.
Carney will “manage a roster of news contributors that includes former CNBC personality Larry Kudlow” for the Breitbart vertical when it launches following Donald Trump’s presidential inauguration, Bloomberg Businessweek’s Joshua Green reported.
Breitbart is currently defined by its bigoted content and popularity among the white nationalist and misogynist “alt-right.” Progressive activists have successfully urged the platform’s blue-chip advertisers to abandon it.
Breitbart is ascendant in the political sphere; the candidate the site championed is on his way to the White House, accompanied by the outlet’s chairman, Stephen Bannon. But Breitbart’s position in the cultural sphere is waning due to scrutiny of its work. Its leadership wants to change the site’s narrative -- because, as Andrew Breitbart himself often warned, “politics is downstream from culture.”
Over the past few years, Breitbart’s reach has expanded in two ways. The site has launched verticals that cover national security, technology, and sports (frequently with a heavy reliance on aggregation and wire service copy) in an effort to convince the members of its hard-right American audience to get their news about those subjects within the same ecosystem where they read about politics.
And it has sought to expand its audiences in particular geographic areas by launching sections focused on California, Texas, the United Kingdom, Israel, and soon, Germany and France.
The launch of the new financial and economic vertical sounds like a little bit of both.
Breitbart has covered finance and economics in the past, but not with any real dedication or rigor; the website wants its audience to stay with it for that news, rather than going elsewhere.
But Breitbart also seems to be seeking a new audience with the move: Wall Street professionals who are high value for advertisers but currently don’t get much from the website other than an association with the “alt-right.”
That’s where Carney comes in.
According to Green, Carney “writes about finance with a populist bent that often mirrors Breitbart’s outlook on politics.” He certainly seems on board with the Breitbart mission, telling Green that the section will promote “the economics of making America great again.”
But he is also a professional journalist, with the Journal, Business Insider, and CNBC on his resume along with clips from other major publications. That makes him a dramatic departure from the editors the website has previously chosen to launch its new sections, a motley melange of conservative political operatives, conspiracy theorists, and fringe writers, often with a prior relationship with the website.
Wall Street leaders who have worked with Carney in the past will likely continue to take his calls. Other mainstream journalists may be more willing to entertain offers from Breitbart now that they know Carney is helming part of the site.
If that strategy holds, Breitbart may be able to generate enough independent reporting and scoops to attract that Wall Street audience. And with that audience comes more traffic and more advertising.
While Carney suggests that the section will “hold [Trump] accountable,” Kudlow’s presence on the staff gives the game away. The longtime right-wing media personality lavished praise on Trump’s economic plans -- which he helped author -- during the presidential campaign. Trump has reportedly considered naming him to head the Council of Economic Advisors.
Together, Carney and Kudlow will put a veneer of credibility over the same old Trump sycophancy.