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Jewish Journal

Can ‘The Wrap’ Trump the Trades?

by Danielle Berrin

January 29, 2009 | 5:40 pm

Sharon Waxman makes no secret of her disillusionment with print journalism. So like everybody else, the former New York Times Hollywood correspondent is running to the net. On the homepage of her new entertainment website, The Wrap, that launched this past Monday and for which she is editor-in-chief, Waxman posted her internet-only raison d’etre.

“A year ago I left The New York Times with a sinking feeling about what was happening to professional journalism,” she wrote. “Today we launch with great optimism what I hope will become an exciting new space to cover Hollywood in the digital age.”

In a paidcontent.org message posted at The Washington Post, The Wrap’s ambitions are made clear:

TheWrap.com, the entertainment news site founded by former NYT Hollywood correspondent Sharon Waxman, is now live. The launch is backed by an undisclosed amount of funding from Seattle-based Maveron; Waxman picked up $500,000 in seed funding last August from private investors.

The site aims to take on established publications like The Hollywood Reporter and Variety with news and commentary; it also aims to take on the other high profile indie journalist Nikki Finke, whose DeadlineHollywoodDaily has remained solo till now, though works loosely with LA Weekly. Entertainment trade pub vets make up the masthead: interim COO Kevin Davis held the same title at Hollywood.com, Managing Editor Tim Doyle is formerly of Variety, and Deputy Editor Maria Russo joins from the LAT.

TheWrap.com is also following HuffPo’s lead by bringing in both journalists and industry vets as contributors; there’s even a prominent call-to-action for guest bloggers via a “Tell Us Something” link on the homepage. And while this may not be the most opportune time to launch an ad-supported operation, Waxman told MarketWatch that TheWrap.com will profit from filling the gaps in entertainment coverage left by larger publications (particularly newspapers) as they cut back across the board. The site secured British Airways and the Four Seasons Hotel Beverly Hills as launch sponsors.

Waxman is certainly setting her sights high by challenging the most widely read media resources in the industry. And yet, her exclusive video of SAG President Alan Rosenberg singing a ditty made waves this morning, and was immediately picked up by Variety.

In the rapidly changing media, Waxman demonstrates the foresight to catch up with progress. Now, we’ll see if The Wrap can catch up with her.

From Waxman’s first editorial:

TheWrap seeks to use the myriad tools of the web to marry top quality journalism – breaking news, trends, features, interviews – with the input of the talented and sophisticated community that creates the world’s popular culture.

The time is fortuitous. As our lead story today indicates, the entertainment and media industries are at a fateful crossroads. TheWrap will be a resource for anyone who is interested in understanding the changes in our popular culture, and navigating what has become a global industry.

We need your help to do it. TheWrap seeks to build the best, most dynamic, most discerning community of entertainment professionals and enthusiasts around the world. We seek to be both authoritative and entertaining – yes, it can be done – and know that our content will be enriched by our readers as they comment on our stories, contribute their own blogs and connect to one another.

We believe entertainment matters. It matters because popular culture is a multi-billion dollar industry, American’s number one export, and a source of connection, employment, passion and aspiration for millions of people across the globe. Movies, television, music, games, media – these represent the common language that unites us as human beings. Entertainment reflects our world, and it shapes it.

So that’s why we built TheWrap. We believe it’s time for a substantive, independent and intelligent voice to write about the business of entertainment. And we believe that voice should be at home on the web.

Please consider this a conversation. A dialogue. We will make mistakes, and you will point them out. We will ruffle feathers, as that’s part of an honest conversation. But we hope most of all that you will participate. Write. Comment. Share. And join us in the digital age.

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