Jimmy Pitaro, vice president of media for Yahoo, disputed claims that Yahoo muzzled outgoing star investigative reporter John Cook.Asked whether Yahoo had censored Cook, who was one of a handful of well-known journalists plucked to develop Yahoo’s debut news blog, The Upshot, as part of the portal giant’s ongoing push into the original content sphere, Pitaro told Business Insider: “Absolutely not.”
Rather, said Pitaro, who we caught up with Wednesday afternoon following an Advertising Week panel at Manhattan’s Paley centre for Media, “I think one thing John didn’t understand is that there is a process. When we want to post something, we do have editors who look at it, and we do have people outside of the writer that have opinions on what should go up. My take is that he was frustrated with the process, and that’s OK. From my perspective, there aren’t any hard feelings.”
We emailed Cook to see if the sentiment was mutual. We’ll update if we hear back.
UPDATE – Here’s Cook’s response:
I wasn’t censored–it’s silly to think of it that way, since it’s Yahoo’s site, right? (And for the record, I never described it that way. I just said that I ran up against Yahoo’s distaste for point of view and had a lot of stories that they didn’t want to do, because they didn’t see the value in upsetting people.) But yes–I found Yahoo’s editorial process more restrictive than I’d hoped. And he’s right that there are no hard feelings.
Last week, Cook told Jeff Bercovici of AOL Daily Finance that controversial content was repeatedly censored. “Most glaringly,” wrote Bercovici, who previously worked with Cook at Radar magazine, “he was told that a proposed story on the Obama Administration raising the salary of White House staffers by 9% lacked the necessary balance; it was killed.” So Cook quit. He’s heading back to Gawker where he will be allowed to tackle explosive stories and write more freely.
Pitaro himself is rumoured to be on the verge of exiting Yahoo, along with fellow executives Hilary Schneider and David Ko. Kara Swisher of AllThingsD hears that Yahoo will announce the departures Friday.
Pitaro declined to comment on his status at the company. But he did shed some light on its upcoming media strategy.
The next “areas of investment,” Pitaro said, will be finance and entertainment. On those fronts, Yahoo has already invested in pop culture bloggerati Courtney Reimer and Mark Lisanti, and marquee business byline Dan Gross, who Yahoo recently poached from Newsweek to write a financial column and, we hear, host a weekly web video show.
“I can’t comment on that one,” said Pitaro, who then commented, “It’s something we’re considering.” (Pitaro was on the Advertising Week panel to talk about how Yahoo is ramping up its original web video programming.)
And what about the ladies? Has Yahoo found a replacement for Brandon Holley, the recently departed editrix of its women’s lifestyle website, Shine, who has returned to the hallowed halls of Conde Nast?
“We’re actively talking to people right now,” Pitaro said.
Whether or not Pitaro will stick around to see all of these moves through is another story.
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