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Media Notes: Howard Kurtz on the Personality Preoccupation of Mediaite.com

Mediaite's trial run gave clear indication of its focus. "Part of what we're doing is appreciating the celebrity of the media," founder Dan Abrams said.
Mediaite's trial run gave clear indication of its focus. "Part of what we're doing is appreciating the celebrity of the media," founder Dan Abrams said. (Mediaite.com)

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HBO will be the "launch advertiser," touting its shows "Hung" and "Entourage," but that seems little different than a newspaper with a major advertiser.

The main complication is that Abrams, a lawyer and former MSNBC general manager, launched a media strategy firm in November. He has not disclosed its clients, but the company says they include Fortune 1,000 corporations, chief executives, financial services concerns and public relations outfits.

For example, Abrams Research's Web site says: "A Fortune 500 business believes the financial media has focused unfairly on a small change in accounting practices rather than significant increases in revenues. Abrams Research can bring together top financial journalists to advise that business on how to best convey its message." Journalists? Advising corporations?

Abrams says he doesn't use full-time journalists whose presence would create a conflict of interest. Instead, he says he has hired freelancers and former journalists. While he runs Mediaite's business side and will write a column, Abrams says he will have no control over editorial content. That, he says, is meant to neutralize questions about his role at NBC and Abrams Research.

But blogger Jeff Jarvis, a consultant who runs the interactive journalism program at the City University of New York, ripped Mediaite after being solicited as a contributor. He wrote that Abrams launching the site while running "a PR company offering access to media people makes it stink. . . . I'm sorry but this smells."

Says Abrams: "It does seem I'm being held to a higher standard than anyone else in the history of the consulting world. That's okay. . . . What some of the purists say is that if you're engaged in journalism at all, you should not be able to work with business, ever."

There is no shortage of media criticism on journalism sites, gossip sites, partisan sites and just about every other kind of site. All this bird-dogging is a welcome development for a business long insulated from scrutiny -- now everyone gets to take a shot -- but has also made it hard to break through the cacophony. How much can even a news junkie read about the tribulations of self-absorbed journalists?

Sklar calls the venture "my dream media site" because it will take a "super-fun" approach to "issues I think are important about where journalism is going, where the media are going."

Oh, and about those rankings: Mediaite rates 284 print and online reporters, topped by New York Times technology columnist David Pogue. Bob Woodward didn't make the list. Not enough "buzz," apparently.

Outside Assistance

Anyone reading The Washington Post the past two weeks could be forgiven for wondering whether the paper has subcontracted out its investigative reporting.

Three front-page stories in five days were done in conjunction with ProPublica, the nonprofit newsroom that began reporting one year ago.

On June 27, Dafna Linzer, a former Post staff writer, reported that the White House was crafting an executive order to allow for the indefinite detention of terrorism suspects. June 29, Jeff Gerth, a former investigative star at the New York Times, reported on a loophole in the bank bailout bill that has benefited General Electric. On July 1, Paul Kiel, a former blogger for the liberal site Talking Points Memo, reported on Hawaii Sen. Daniel Inouye contacting federal regulators who provided $135 million in aid to a home-state bank that the Democrat helped establish. A Post reporter collaborated on each piece.


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