Why is Marc Santora, a respected war correspondent for the New York Times, appearing in ads chattering about mobile technology? Click on the ad, running on sites like VentureBeat, and you're taken to a site, DigitalNomads, which appears to be a collection of blog-filler pablum about the wonders of the wireless Internet. Buried at the bottom is a tiny disclaimer: "Powered by Dell." Dig under the ad-placement code, and you'll see that the ad is sold by Federated Media, John Battelle's online-ad network. Battelle's outfit grew infamous last summer for getting some of the bloggers for whom he sells ads to recite a sponsor's slogan. That last time, it was Microsoft.At no point does Santora mention Dell's name. But his underlying message, that new technological gear helps us all do our jobs better, certainly serves Dell's purposes. I would have thought that the strict Times ethics code would forbid such an endorsement, paid or otherwise. Why bloody the reputation of someone who's taking a bullet to get stories for the newspaper? I've asked the Times what's going on, but haven't heard back yet. Update: Marc Santora has written in to let us know he had no involvement, financial or otherwise, with the ad — which just adds to the headscratching.
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