Media-mogul smackdown! Arianna vs. Rupert

It's not quite The New York Times (NYT), but Rupert Murdoch could soon get control of another liberal journalistic institution -- unless he's all talk.

At a Federal Trade Commission conference on the future of journalism Tuesday, Arianna Huffington (pictured) vowed to hand over her share of the Huffington Post if a possible deal between News Corp. (NWS) and Microsoft (MSFT) that's been the subject of numerous recent reports ever comes to fruition.
"The big buzz last week was about News Corp.'s fantasies of breaking up with Google (GOOG) and tying the knot with Microsoft, giving its heart -- and all its content -- to Bing," Huffington said. "I'll gladly wager my share of the Huffington Post that this ain't gonna happen."

I asked Huffington afterward if she was prepared to go through with her bet in the event that a News Corp.–Bing deal materializes. "Yes, if he actually makes the deal with Bing," she said. "Here's the thing: There's going to be no deal with Bing. I'm completely confident of that. My sources are impeccable."

Aggregators or Parasites?

Indeed, Huffington demonstrated no lack of confidence as she delivered her address, a lengthy response to months of verbal fist-shaking by Murdoch and his minions in the direction of HuffPo and other news aggregators -- "parasites," as he prefers to call them. Just two hours earlier, it was Murdoch at the conference podium, calling what Huffington and other aggregators do "theft."

"Apparently, some in the old media have decided that it is, in fact, an either/or game, and that the best way to save if not journalism, at least themselves, is by pointing fingers and calling names," Huffington rejoined. "It's a tactic familiar to schoolyard inhabitants everywhere: When all else fails, reach for the nearest insult and throw it around indiscriminately." (The full text of her speech is here.)

Unfortunately for Huffington's thirst for vengeance, Murdoch left immediately after his speech and was not on hand to receive his comeuppance. But Huffington told me her remarks were meant for his ears, and for those of his hand-picked Wall Street Journal editor, Robert Thomson, who spoke on an afternoon panel. "They're deliberately kind of elevating the insult level," she said. "They can do anything they want, but that have to actually do it, not just threaten to do it."
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