Interview: Jacob Weisberg

Before blogs, Craigslist, or Google, there was Slate.

Before blogs, Craigslist, or Google, there was Slate.

The web magazine, created in 1996 by Microsoft, has been at the forefront of web publishing and has helped drive the nascent medium's credibility. Jacob Weisberg is the website's editor, having joined in its inaugural year after working for the New Republic, The New York Times Magazine, and Vanity Fair. He assumed leadership of Slate in 2002, steering the ship recently toward an acquisition by the Washington Post Co.

PRWeek: Are mainstream media outlets that have built empires in print paying more attention to their online endeavors?

Jacob Weisberg: The shrewder ones started doing that long ago. The online properties are certainly not as important to them in terms of revenue - yet. But if one projects current trends forward and sees the [potential] growth online versus the difficulty of achieving any kind of growth in print, it only makes sense for a forward-looking media company to be extremely focused on its online titles or online versions of its print titles.

PRWeek: How have blogs impacted Slate?

Weisberg: We're extremely enthusiastic about blogging as a phenomenon and have been for many years. Kausfiles is considered by some to be the first general-interest blog that attracted a real nonspecialist readership. Slate is not a blog, but it now contains several blogs.

PRWeek: Blogs are publishing very quickly, and newspapers are publishing slowly. Is the move for successful online companies going toward the middle?

Weisberg: It's a different model of investigation and discovering the truth. A lot of the traditional media feel very threatened by blogs. And the web, in general, and blogs, in particular, raise the price of error for journalists, both online and in print.
While an individual blog may be inaccurate, unfair, or dishonest, the collective intelligence of the web and thousands of people picking apart anything they see in print makes journalists more careful. When you make a mistake now, there's almost no chance of it going unnoticed. And when it is noticed, you'll be humiliated in public.
Blogs have made entities like The New York Times more accurate and forthcoming about acknowledging errors that occur. ... It's a kind of fact checking that you'd never get from a [media] fact-checking department.

PRWeek: How is the interaction between Slate and PR people?

Weisberg: It's pretty comparable now to print publications, which speaks to the maturity of the medium and our acceptance. Early on, it was a real issue to get our clients into screenings and to get review copies of CDs and DVDs. Now, I think Slate is part of anyone's plan when doing PR.

PRWeek: Are there any particular areas of coverage you feel you don't get enough pitches from?

Weisberg: We're a very lean staff, so it's hard for us to deal with a large volume of pitches. The truth is, we don't make it too easy for people to get our phone extensions. ...[But] the one area I might mention is music. We're further behind with record labels than we are with the film studios.

Name: Jacob Weisberg
Outlet: Slate
Title: Editor
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