Reporters as Consultants Is a Bad Idea

Dan Abrams has a bad notion.

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Let's think of ways to make journalists even less credible than they already are. Hire them out to give advice to corporate brass in trouble with the media. This proposal is the brainchild of former MSNBC chief Dan Abrams, who lost his show to the more popular host, Rachel Maddow, and has now left the cable news network.

Abrams's idea, according to the Wall Street Journal, is to assemble a roster of "thousands" of media headliners from print, broadcast, and online, to swoop in (for a hefty fee, of course) and help uncertain penthouse suite occupants. His firm, Abrams Research, might, according to the Journal, "marshal a mock jury of bloggers, TV personalities and newspaper or magazine editors to weigh in on how media outlets would likely respond to different PR strategies."

While assembling this firm, Abrams is renegotiating his own media contract as an outside legal analyst for NBC News. How will we ever know if his firm is getting money from a law firm or lawyer for its services? Abrams says his "strict ethical guidelines" (again according to the Journal) will bar full-time journalists from consulting with companies in their areas of coverage. He, as a presumed freelance or part-time cable consultant, would be free of his own ethics guidelines.

I do not know Abrams nor would I ever hire myself out in such a fashion. I'm a full-time journalist covering issues affecting women, families, communities of color, and politics. Could I work up guidelines under which I could accept such corporate fees? Of course! Would I be further blurring the line separating journalism from greed in the so doing? Yes. Worse yet, I couldn't live with myself. I believe I speak for most journalists who've never passed through the revolving door between (or among) journalism, politics and the corporate world. We're a dying breed. No wonder the American public has so little faith in its media.

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