They say “timing is everything” and The Advocate‘s editor in chief, Jon Barrett, is in the unenviable–or perfectly timed–position of defending the magazine’s cover story on Perez Hilton.

With Perez spending more time making headlines then reporting gossip, Barrett defends the cover story and explains Benoit Denizet-Lewis updated the print story online to get Perez’s defense of calling Black Eyed Peas member Will.I.Am a “faggot” and posting video of Dustin Lance Black having sex.

“I agree with those of you who wrote in to say that there are many other important issues for the magazine to cover, from marriage equality to don’t ask, don’t tell, to employment and non discrimination. But there’s no denying that in between the punches and the epithets Perez Hilton is talking about these issues too. And while many of us might disagree with the points or eloquence of his arguments, millions of Americans are paying attention to Perez and that reason alone is enough reason to put him on our cover.”

The updated cover story and Barrett’s defense have not been well-received by commenters at The Advocate, with most questioning whether Hilton is worth the attention.

The blogosphere has also been lukewarm to the Hilton depicted in the coverage. Gawker called the article “a mildly interesting, if not deeply-probing, read” while TowleRoad said the story was “certainly no puff piece, but it takes the Perez phenomenon seriously.”  Queerty suggested that the story would have been different if the whole thing had taken place post-“faggot,” adding “[h]ad the piece been filed after the incident, it might have steered in a different direction, perhaps away from Hilton trying desperately to find a boyfriend.”

My guess is that the online version of the story is going to be hotter than the dead-tree version, which is mostly a personality profile with some attention to the Miss USA controversy. Denizet-Lewis is a talented writer and this definitely isn’t fawning celebrity journalism. Hilton’s defense of the both the sex video and the confrontation with Will.I.Am don’t really help his case and arguably raise questions about Hilton as gay rights advocate.

To the larger question of whether Hilton deserves the cover of the Advocate, my sense is Barrett is right.  Hilton is a well known figure and, as Barrett says, the Advocate‘s  mission is not only covering  “the people who speak out against us” but “also on those people who presume to speak for us”.