Last year the SEC and New York attorney general's office opened investigations related to a novel business: a company that hired as "consultants" moonlighting workers with access to proprietary information of interest to hedge funds. Ethical questions will also be asked about the network of insider media consultants Dan Abrams has assembled after Rachel Maddow took the Elle Macpherson-dater's MSNBC slot. With advisors like former Us Weekly editor Bonnie Fuller, ex-Huffington Post writer Rachel Sklar and Lockhart Steele, once of Gawker Media, Abrams Research is meant to be simply a "mock jury of bloggers, TV personalities and newspaper or magazine editors," the Wall Street Journal reports. But it could get so much more thorny than that.
Abrams told the Journal the company's ethical guidelines include "a ban on full-time journalists consulting with companies in their area of coverage. Instead, Mr. Abrams says he will try to connect companies with media professionals with expertise in a general area while avoiding direct conflicts."
But a general magazine editor, or blogger without a beat (covering everything that happens at night, for example), though he may have no specific area of coverage, really should not be getting paid to answer questions about how a publication — like, say, his — might cover something when he may well have to decide how to cover that very thing a short time later, with the added complication of having been paid/bribed by the subject. Unless maybe he was totally screwed over on bonus, or the holiday party was canceled, or for whatever reason he's decided it's time to just sell the hell out.
Then there are the many media people between jobs right now, for whom a quick stint on a consulting "jury" could provide some needed cash. The work probably won't go on the resume, and probably won't be mentioned in a job interview. It should be disclosed at some point, but some people will surely be tempted to keep it secret.
But really, with the media employment landscape in the shape it's in, it would be really nice for everyone if this type of job could be ethically greenlit. It doesn't have to end badly. Help us see that this is kosher, Dan. We all NEED for this to be OK!