Gawker hasn't exactly been shy about taking its shots at Mediaite in the time leading up to the launch, so we spoke to Editor-At-Large Rachel Sklar via email to give her an opportunity to talk about the site and counter some of the criticism we and others have had about Mediaite and Abrams Research.
Gawker: Okay, first off, you've been working on this launch for months. Now that the site is finally up and running, how do you feel?
Sklar: Months - actually it's been quite a quick turnaround. Someone did the math here and it's more like ten weeks. So how do I feel? Hm, tired. I still have a bunch of stuff to do tonight. But, happy! I love the site and had a blast with the team putting it together. If you don't give me an opportunity to kvell about our interns later on in this Q&A, permit me to do so now. They are off-the-charts fantastic.
Gawker: Well, it probably just seems as though you've been talking about it for months, so forgive me.
Now, there's been plenty of criticism launched in the direction of your boss, Dan Abrams, for what many, Gawker included, see as a conflict of interest in having a media advisory firm attached to a media website. Obviously, you feel differently. How have Gawker and other critics of Abrams Research/Mediaite been wrong about this?
(Ed. note—Here is what Abram's said in his inaugural blog post addressing these concerns:
While I have certainly helped create the tone and direction of Mediaite, now that the site is live, I will take on the role of Publisher. I will continue to help guide and manage the business side of the site, but the editorial decisions will be left entirely to the editorial staff.
Why would I give up the opportunity to edit my own site? There are a number of reasons. Most important, however, I want this site to be viewed as objective – tough and opinionated – but not the Dan Abrams Post. I have strong feelings about many in media and will write opinion columns for the site but the editorial team will determine the editorial content. When you think about the team we have assembled, it's easy to understand why I feel so comfortable - Managing Editor Colby Hall, Editor-at-Large Rachel Sklar (former Huffington Post media editor) , Senior Editor Glynnis MacNicol (former FishbowlNY editor), and TV Editor Steve Krakauer (former TV Newser editor) (among others) - are top of class.)
Gawker: So Abrams essentially says in his blog post that he won't use Mediaite to protect and promote the interests of his clients at Abrams Research. But wouldn't you guys at Mediate cry foul if someone like Nick Denton did the same thing? Do you not understand the skepticism that the "just trust me" line of defense inspires?
It was at this point that I got an email from Sklar saying that she was on her way home and that we'd resume the interview, but I never heard back from her. Oh well. In her defense it was four in the morning at this point and she may have walked through the door of her apartment and just collapsed into the fetal position. I can't say that I'd blame her if that was the case.
But just because we've had trouble viewing the site doesn't mean that others haven't seen it! Here's what the Washington Post's Howard Kurtz said:
With separate pages for TV, print and online, the site aggregates plenty of content, like other media-focused portals, while also offering opinionated takes on scandal coverage, journalistic feuds, ethical questions and sundry embarrassments. There is a "Confront the Critics" feature — an artist gets to talk back to a negative reviewer — and a "Sex Watch," as in, who's exploiting titillating images for page views?
Some headlines, from an exclusive peek at last week's trial run: "Where Will Sanford Sell His 'Love Story' on TV?" "CBS and CNN and Michael Jackson Coverage — Don't Stop 'Til You Get Enough." "Which MSNBC Colleagues Did Joe Scarborough Call Out This Morning?" "Vibe Folds: Death Knell for All Music Mags?"
Plus there's a Job section, which as of yet doesn't seem to rival (Laurel) Touby's in quantity or quality…in fact, searching in their "Jobs for Media Professionals" section results in 0 items. Probably just a bug that will get fixed in time, but I prefer to think of it as gallows humor.
UPDATE: At about 5am, I noticed an email had come in from Sklar while I was out for coffee answering an earlier question I'd posed about her role in the day to day operations of Mediaite. Here's what she said:
A bit of everything - write, obviously; do some video stuff that we're working on; help develop the features we've planned for the site. We're small so we all do a lot of everything. I've also been recruiting contributors, which I did a great deal of at HuffPo - that's been fun. I love the people we've got so far. I might need to kvell a bit here, too: Jim Impoco has a great column about Portfolio's emerging legacy; my old pal Jeffrey Feldman has the definitive take on the Pitney-Milbank dustup; and then there's Rob Spence, who's, oh, a CYBORG. Wooo, the singularity is coming! (I sort of know what that means.)
But I have to say the column I'm most excited by is by Bill Rappleye. Bill is 85, has been working in journalism for over sixty years. He's writing a column for us called "Old Guard" all about what's happening in media, from the perspective of someone who has seen it evolve through decades of technological advancement. He's like a walking institutional memory bank. We're lucky to have him.
So there you go.