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WRITER EXPOSES APPARENT CONFLICT OF INTEREST AT AOL COMPANIES

March 16, 2011 by · Leave a Comment 

Alexia Tsotsis

A writer for TechCrunch.com, which was acquired last year by AOL, was asked by a representative for Moviefone, also owned by AOL, to “tone down” an article she wrote about Summit Entertainment’s The Source Code, starring Jake Gyllenhaal. (The rep wrote that Summit Entertainment felt the article “was a little snarky.”) Instead of complying, the outraged writer, Alexia Tsotsis, posted the letter online, thereby sparking an ethics debate involving other online entertainment publications and blogs. Veteran journalist Kevin Roderick, a former senior editor and staff writer at the Los Angeles Times, who currently publishes the LAObserved blog, commented, “I don’t know what the editorial culture of AOL allows — at some publications, that would be the end of the Moviefone guy.” But late Tuesday, Moviefone’s editor-in-chief, Patricia Chui, defended the request, while exposing an apparent conflict-of-interest in the overall AOL direction. “The reality of our situation is that, as a movies site, we work with movie studios every day, and it is in our best interests to stay on good terms with them. Staying on good terms with studios means that we will relay information if asked. It does not mean that we would ever force a writer or an editor to edit their work for the sake of a studio — or anyone else,” Chui said.