The next wave: Ex-WTAE anchor Scott Baker changes channel to run Web news site

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Pam Panchak/Post-Gazette
Scott Baker, left, and Liz Stephans are about to launch Breitbart.tv, a Web site that offers users links to video from a variety of news sources. They will also host a daily, live streaming news program on the site.
By Rob Owen
Pittsburgh Post-Gazette

Former WTAE news anchor Scott Baker is getting ready to broadcast again, only this time it won't be on TV -- he'll be anchoring on the Internet.

Baker, whose contract was not renewed by Channel 4 last summer, and former ThePittsburghChannel.com news editor Liz Stephans are about to launch the Web site Breitbart.tv, using Jay Verno Studios on the South Side as their base of operations.

   
Co-opting the Net

Even as sites such as Breitbart.tv attempt to democratize the media, some independent, fan-initiated sites are being bought up by old-media conglomerates.

In the past year, JumpTheShark.com and TVShowsOnDVD.com were bought by TV Guide. This week, Bravo bought the snarky TV recap Web site TelevisionWithoutPity.com. The site's founders were retained and will continue as its editors.

-- Rob Owen, Post-Gazette TV editor

   

"This is still TV, and as TV moves onto the Internet and moves beyond the short clip culture [to longer-form content], we are hoping to create the news/talk broadcast of the next wave," Baker said. "We're excited about the idea that you can cover the world, network together citizen journalists and you can do it from anywhere."

Breitbart.tv, set to launch by the end of the month, is a spinoff of Breitbart.com, a news aggregator. What's a news aggregator? Stephans explains it best: "It takes multiple sources of content from all different types of news [outlets] and compiles them for the user and lets the user click through to the source to find what they're interested in."

Instead of going to Reuters.com or NewYorkPost.com, a person can click to Breitbart.com to read the latest headlines and find links to stories from those sources and many more that Breitbart has agreements to re-publish or link to. The new Breitbart.tv will do the same thing, but instead of links to text reports, it will offer links to video from sources such as ABC News, Associated Press, Fox News, Reuters and TMZ.com. Baker and Stephans have already started incorporating some video in a newly revamped Breitbart.com site. Ad sales for both the .com and the .tv sites are handled by Federated Media.

Breitbart.com was launched 11/2 years ago by Andrew Breitbart, co-author of the book "Hollywood, Interrupted: Insanity Chic in Babylon -- The Case Against Celebrity." In its March issue, Vanity Fair called him a "self-described right-leaning Hollywood basher, but, a free-thinker." Breitbart has appeared in the anti-Michael Moore film "Michael Moore Hates America," worked on the Drudge Report and helped develop the liberal Huffington Post blog before starting Breitbart.com, which receives 20 million page views per month, Baker said.

Breitbart said his goal for .tv is to make "an all-encompassing breaking-news video" site, and he's confident Baker and Stephans are the right people for the job.

"I've never met two people who have the same level of 24/7 passion about breaking news," he said. "It's an addiction."

The goal is for Breitbart.tv to be a 24-hour site, with Baker, Stephans and Breitbart, who lives in Los Angeles, sharing posting duties. (Baker admits 3-to-7 a.m. may not see many posts, but interns could be added to cover such off hours.)

Baker and Stephans -- first seen anchoring together online in January 2006 on Steelers Webcasts on WTAE's ThePittsburghChannel.com -- will host a daily, live streaming news program titled "Fair Use," a news-talk program that will break original stories (using citizen journalist contributors), track and comment on the news video of the day and analyze news coverage. (A time slot for the program has not been set.)

The title "Fair Use" isn't by accident. The law allows fair, limited use of copyrighted material. Baker and Stephans will also pull from sources they have made agreements with and from uncopyrighted, user-generated video posted online.

The show's theme song will be taken from an existing track by a local artist who goes by the moniker Girl Talk. He makes fair use of existing music to create mashup songs.

Baker and Stephans are broadcasting "Fair Use" test programs to a limited, invitation-only audience now and expect to open the show to anyone on the Internet by summer. (The show, or excerpts from it, should be available on demand at the site next month.) They also intend to go live to cover breaking news when warranted.

New technology developed by a company called RayV will allow for a smoother, better quality online broadcast. Baker said "Fair Use" is a bit of a guinea pig for the new technology, a chance to show "two people can create live programming and do it well."

If the technology takes off and people around the world begin broadcasting shows of their own, Breitbart.tv should be well-positioned to act as a guide to that user-generated programming.

The Breitbart.tv studio setup is pretty simply: A few overhead lights, three video cameras, an audio mixing board, a desk and two cameras built into the Apple MacBook Pros that sit on the desk in front of Baker and Stephans. Baker acts as director, switching among the five cameras on his laptop. He can also push a key on his laptop to roll the video he and Stephans discuss.

Whatever his personal politics, Breitbart said he doesn't intend either the .com or .tv sites to be ideological platforms, and he said the sites won't push politics any more than entertainment or any other news of the moment.

"If a Republican says something crazy, if a Democrat says something crazy, I'll put it up and let people decide," Breitbart said. "There aren't many sites where you can see both sides duking it out. That would be ideal for me."

Baker has his own expectations for the .tv site.

"Our bias is breaking news," he said, "and beyond that our goal is to not be boring."


TV editor Rob Owen can be reached at rowen@post-gazette.com or 412-263-2582. Ask questions at post-gazette.com/tv under TV Q&A.


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