True/Slant – When Journalists Become Ad Reps


Howie Kurtz reviews the opportunities and challenges facing Lewis Dworkin’s new information site True/Slant. For those of you who haven’t yet heard, True/Slant takes a new and entriprising approach for cracking the monetization of content code. In short – Dworkin is aiming to combine the viral nature of social networking with “capital J” journalism. And who sells the ads, you might ask? Why its the journalists themselves!

In his Media Notes column Mr. Kurtz cites the following example:

Hours after an Air France jet disappeared over the Atlantic last Monday, Miles O’Brien, dismissing “the often inaccurate reporting on aviation that is so prevalent in the mainstream media,” offered some informed analysis.

“It was a dark and stormy night — in a place that is home to the world’s worst thunderstorms,” he said. O’Brien noted that the Airbus A330 had a good record and “the crew had ‘Sully-esque’ seasoning.”

But O’Brien wasn’t reporting for CNN, which dumped him in December. He was posting on True/Slant, a Web site that is mapping a new relationship between journalists, readers and advertisers. In fact, O’Brien has already contacted such aerospace companies as Boeing and Lockheed Martin to sponsor his work at another site, and plans to do so for True/Slant.

If he had done that at CNN, says O’Brien, “I’d be fired, are you kidding?”

Interesting — and what could possibly go wrong with this scenario?

The lack of attention that traditional media outlets have thus far given to this model begs an interesting question – is the current state of news journalism so freaked out that they’re willing to give this questionable concept a flyer? Or is the idea dead on arrival? Before we dance on their grave – we are quick to remember that some reporter somewhere probably thought that transatlantic phone lines was dumb idea also.

Have a tip we should know?

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