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"[Kenneth] Lerer was splitting his time between New York and skiing at his vacation home in Utah when he came across a new book by a young sociologist, Duncan Watts. The book was called Six Degrees. Lerer was so taken by it that he took Watts to lunch.
"He brought the book with him and Watts would recall that the copy was dog-eared, the flatteringly telltale sign of a purposeful read. Lerer had a plan and he wanted Watts to help him. He had set himself an ambitious target. He wanted to take on the National Rifle Association. He told Watts: 'I know the answer to this is somewhere in these pages.'
"Nine years and one Pulitzer Prize later, what is the phenomenon that lunch set in motion? How is it that the Huffington Post, at turns celebrated as the savior of its parent company and decried as a glitzy thief of journalism produced by others, has come to matter?"
This lunch begins Michael Shapiro's saga in the May/June issue of the Columbia Journalism Review, "Six degrees of aggregation: How the Huffington Post ate the internet." Lerer and Arianna Huffington founded HuffPo together, and Shapiro offers a long and savvy account of its rise to dominance.
But an attentive reader might be wondering: so how did that thing with the NRA work out?
Spoiler alert: the Monday mail just delivered the July/August issue of Mother Jones. On the cover is a teaser, "How the NRA Won," and inside this article by Adam Weinstein, "License to Kill: Immunity for Stand Your Ground shooters. Packing heat in bars. Gun permits for wife beaters. How radical gun laws spawned by a band of NRA lobbyists and Florida politicians have spread nationwide."
No, it didn't work out all that well. Shapiro gets back to the NRA just long enough to mention this. Not that any of us didn't already know.