AOL Seed’s Hansell Looks to NYT for Field Hands

Saul Hansell, a former The New York Times reporter who left to join AOL Seed, is reaching out to his former coworkers in hopes of bringing them in on the controversial journalistic venture.

Gawker, has obtained an email from Hansell to his former colleagues in hopes of filling two editorial positions at Seed. (Disclosure: Mediabistro is hosting a panel sponsored by AOL Seed on April 15.)

“Good journalism jobs are so scarce these days,” wrote Hansell to more than 50 prospective hires, many of whom have watched their own coworkers l earn that the hard way, “that I figured I’d spread word far and wide about these openings and also get the word out that there will be more great opportunities at AOL in the coming months.”

It’s unclear whether Hansell will find any takers. AOL Seed has raised hackles among journalists for enlisting large numbers of writers to write freelance pieces for low fees. For example, in hopes of covering the upcoming SXSW festival, Seed hopes to give out 2,000 Q&A assignments — one for each band. The 1,000-word pieces pay $50, which works out to 2 cents a word. That’s not a great rate for full-time freelancers, but it’s a workable price point for non-professional writers looking to have fun while amassing some clips. Furthermore, The Wall Street Journal has said that AOL CEO Tim Armstrong’s goal with Seed is to dominate the media space by “blurring the lines between journalism and advertising.”

The army-ant approach to journalism has left some critics foaming at the mouth. Low rates or not, though, Seed is hiring while many august print publications are struggling to avoid layoffs. We’ll be waiting to see whether anyone on the receiving end of Hansell’s email decides to jump ship.