Shhh! It’s a Secret!

This made the rounds among journo-types yesterday, but in case you haven’t seen it, there’s an exciting development in the media world: a startup is “aimed at fixing news.” (Yes, really!)

Unfortunately, it’s a secret. Hence, the handle for the employer in the ad listing at the Poynter site: “Secret Journalism Startup.” (Yes, really.) The accompanying description helpfully explains: “We’re funded and advised by YCombinator, the people behind Reddit, posterous, and Contact us at We’re not releasing our name publicly for another few weeks, for esoteric reasons involving investors.”

And what will this mystery employer be paying? Well, the listing pegs salaries at $30,000-$70,000, but compensation turns out to be, if not a secret, then something of a guess. According to a note: “We help journalists make money online, and earn a small portion of the proceeds. So while this isn’t a paid position, we only earn money if you do. (So the 30K-70K is an estimate, not a concrete figure).”

As it turns out, the secret didn’t last long. A rudimentary Google search shows that the phone number in the ad—an unpublished listing in the Bay Area—is shared by something called NewsLabs, which does have a Web site with a bit more information, including a handy Q&A explainer. (Sample question: “Um, this sounds sinister?”)

Sinister, it’s probably not. Still, it’s hard to imagine an out-of-work journalist coming across a listing like this and not feeling a bit bewildered, even if there might be some merit in the underlying idea. And that’s no secret.

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Greg Marx is an associate editor at CJR. Follow him on Twitter @gregamarx.