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City & State or ZIP Tonight, this weekend, May 5th...
City & State or ZIP
City & State or ZIP Tonight, this weekend, May 5th...
City & State or ZIP

Can you trust Dale Cardwell?

dale-cardwell

In the mid-1990s, Dale Cardwell spent three years producing Clark Howard’s WSB-TV consumer alert stories.

He then decided to do his own investigative stories for WSB-TV, building a reputation as a tough advocate for the people. He won six Emmys, three of which are perched on a shelf in his Midtown office. But he wanted broader impact, leaving WSB in 2007 to try to unseat Sen. Saxby Chambliss (R-Ga.)

Refusing to accept special interest donations, he sought publicity by spending a week on top of a tower, a stunt normally reserved for radio DJs. He came in third in the Democratic primaries.

Would you try TrustDale.com and actually trust Dale?

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Unemployed, he came up with a new business concept, using his journalistic integrity as his primary selling point. Called TrustDale.com, his site recommends businesses in various categories such as roofing, tree removal and accounting work. Each gets his “Trust Dale” seal of approval based on his own investigative work.

“I choose the companies,” said Cardwell. “They don’t choose me.” He gets most of those businesses to pay into an advertising pool for him to air TV and radio commercials and ten billboards around town. He also hired an outside publicist who sold me on the story. (About a third of the time, he also gets a nominal finder’s fee via referrals off his site.)

For consumers, the site is free and if they mention they used his site, they sometimes get a discount.

So far, he has recommended 34 companies, most exclusive to a category. Each gets a two-minute “investigative” piece on his site. He said he could do potentially another 40 or 50.

“We felt he had the same values as our company,” said Greg Brooks, spokesman for Walton EMC, the natural gas marketer recommended by Cardwell. “He’s brought us customers and publicity.”

Warren McGrew, president of Academy Roofing, said he likes the exclusivity on the site, making it more valuable to him than subscription-based Angie’s List or Cox-owned Kudzu. While he isn’t sure yet if he has gotten a return on investment yet, he has faith in Cardwell’s vision and has gotten nothing but positive feedback from customers.

The Better Business Bureau of metro Atlanta has not received any complaints about Cardwell’s site and Fred Elsberry, president, said he has no issue with Cardwell’s business concept.

“Dale was an enterprising and aggressive investigative reporter at WSB,” wrote WSB-TV anchor John Pruitt in an email. “Whether his credibility in that role transfers to his business activities has to be judged by his customers.”

Clark Howard himself said he does not know enough about Cardwell’s business to comment. But “when I worked with him,” he said, “he was as ethical as it comes.”

Doug Richards, a WXIA-TV reporter who writes a TV news blog called Live Apartment Fire, dubbed Cardwell on his blog as “probably the most polarizing reporter I’ve ever known” among sources who felt they were burned by him.

Cardwell took that as a badge of honor: ” I’ve worked in five states. I have never worked in a state where the media held public officials to a lesser standard. It’s like they all want lunch with them and dont want to make them mad. My job wasn’t to be buddies with the elected leaders.”

Many journalists leave the business go into marketing or public relations, said Michael Castengera, a senior journalism lecturer at the University of Georgia and broadcast news consultant. Cardwell, he said, is doing something more unique.

But he is unsure if Cardwell has enough community name recognition and real trust to draw enough customers to his site. He certainly isn’t as big a name as Howard. “I was a broadcaster and I think we tend to over-estimate the audience’s familiarity with us,” Castengera said.

Cardwell said, “Clark is such a national brand. But there’s a huge vacuum. He doesn’t recommend services, especially local. That’s where I can grow.”

So far, Cardwell says the year-old site draws 4,500 unique visitors a day and is “financially viable.” For now, though, he is pouring 90 percent of his funds back into the business. “It will reach a critical mass at some point,” he said.

He is also buying time Sunday mornings on WXIA-TV at 7:30 a.m. starting July 4 for a 30-minute weekly infomercial in which he solves consumer problems and provides advice while promoting his site.

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40 comments Add your comment

Scott Riding

June 4th, 2010
2:56 pm

I have known Dale a long time, and I know his integrity means everything to him.

Bruce

June 4th, 2010
3:15 pm

I recently met several of Dale’s trusted partners. They all share a common goal of customer satisfaction. This work will serve the Atlanta area consumers very well.

tom

June 4th, 2010
3:47 pm

It is all about the Benjamins!

Trust him?

June 4th, 2010
4:13 pm

Heck, I’ve never heard of him!

Obama's Teleprompter

June 4th, 2010
4:18 pm

Democrat? That’s all I need to know that he’s a scumbag!

Will

June 4th, 2010
4:25 pm

Not a republican? That’s all I need to know that he’s trustworthy!

Loran, Whatayagot?

June 4th, 2010
4:27 pm

He’s a Democrat. Democrats are Socialists. Maybe he can figure out a way for the government to pay for his client’s service.

Impervious Pearl

June 4th, 2010
4:38 pm

As someone that worked with him when he was a reporter….Doug Richards is absolutely correct. I thought he was mean spirited and did not accurately provide the information to his and WSB-TV viewers.

Darrell

June 4th, 2010
4:49 pm

When I worked for the Fulton County Sheriff’s Office, Dale did a story about me that was totally bogus. At the end of the story he said that I wasn’t available for comment, whereas I was sitting at my desk each day and wasn’t asked to comment. I called the station manager to complain.

JHildy

June 4th, 2010
4:55 pm

He is a Democrat. Probably a nice guy, yet still a Democrat.

Should tell you all you need to know.

BillS

June 4th, 2010
4:59 pm

He lost whatever integrity he possessed when he went into commercial work. Sorry, Dale, but you can’t transfer that. He’s a pitchman now, and maybe he’s a good one — I don’t know him at all and don’t wish to put him down — but he’s not a journalist any more.

Jack Stilton

June 4th, 2010
5:02 pm

My respect for him got cut in 1/2 when he ran as a Democrat!

rod

June 4th, 2010
5:07 pm

after finding out he was a commie lib running for office I have zero interst in his service or him he will probably be looking for an obama handout if it diesnt do well.

PR Machine

June 4th, 2010
5:09 pm

To get publicity, maybe he should get back up on that tower and throw money and business cards off with discount coupons!!!!

Cornjolio

June 4th, 2010
5:15 pm

A Democrat with integrity? That hasn’t existed since the days of FDR and Harry Truman !

Dale, your party affiliation conjures up visions of a booger-eating, bedwetting, toe-sucking liberal.

tater

June 4th, 2010
5:35 pm

He looks like a young Johnny Carson in that photo.

Moderate

June 4th, 2010
5:40 pm

Your right wing zealots are really nuts.

Ghost of Ronald Reagan

June 4th, 2010
6:03 pm

When someone tells you to “trust them”………better hang onto your wallet. Especially since he is a big LIBERAL. What will his next website be…..”Trust Obama”??????

WOW!

June 4th, 2010
6:12 pm

A Republican with integrity? That is kind of like bigfoot, you hear alot about it, you see interviews with toothless hillbillies saying they saw it, but it is simply a fairy tale.

GOPSUX

June 4th, 2010
6:15 pm

Wow – now we’re looking at party affiliations of business owners? Hmmmm … fortunately no Republicans or conservatives would ever rip us off … *cough cough *

Ronnie Reagan

June 4th, 2010
6:17 pm

Liberals are like roaches…..you can’t get rid of them!

Chip

June 4th, 2010
6:27 pm

I was living in Nashville when he was on the air there and had moved here when he was at WSB. Always a straight shooter to the public.

Btw, when people say Democratic or Republican, throw that out the window. We need a complete overhaul on both parties.

Terrence

June 4th, 2010
6:37 pm

If he is as big a @#$%^& as Mark Winnie then I wouldn’t trust anything he says. All of these so-called consumer rating “services” that accept money form the advertisers are bogus. Only Consumers Reports remains untainted by ad money.

Kim

June 4th, 2010
6:38 pm

Chip, you are one wise man

gooberpeas

June 5th, 2010
12:30 pm

I remember Dale running for the Senate…..he was much too liberal for my taste. The fact that he chose to associate with the Democrats says a lot about his philosophy. He’s probably a very nice guy, and I have no doubt that he’s honest, but he’s terribly misguided about what America is supposed to be. Government is supposed to be very limited, and freedom should reign. We don’t need a government agency to protect us from every boogie man out there. Maybe his new business venture is a good sign. Let the private sector handle it, and get rid of most of these governmental protection agencies (are you listening, Mr. Howard?). I suspect that after actually owning a business, making payroll and paying taxes, Dale may ditch the Democrats and become a conserative.

Liberal Loser

June 5th, 2010
2:20 pm

It only a matter of time that he is asking Obama for a Bailout for his site….hell he may already have plans to turn it over to the Obama Administration to run…..This is what happens when your a Liberal Loser…..Maybe you need to pick another business where your political views wont matter so much….Not very Smart!

Beau Bock

June 5th, 2010
10:41 pm

This guy couldn’t hold my jock.

Marcel

June 6th, 2010
11:31 am

How about keeping your comments relevant to the story? Regardless of his political affiliation, there seems to be two issues worth discussing. 1) does his previous work as an investigative journalist make him an authority on the BEST or most reliable consumer products? and 2) How valid is any recommendation that a company pays for? The fact that he operates his business using the latter approach would seem to cancel out any validity he may have had as a journalist. He is going to be biased because he’s being paid, and then trying to convince you to trust his judgment. THAT seems unethical to me…

Pago Pago Dawg

June 6th, 2010
12:28 pm

I think we all pretty much agree, he should have stayed on top of the dem/lib ivory tower.

Hindu Elvis Pimp

June 7th, 2010
11:00 am

Trust me, Hindu Elvis Pimp.

Matt Jones

June 10th, 2010
8:35 am

OK, y’all need a lesson in Georgia politics. Up until the mid-1990s, the Republican party was nonexistent. I mean, the last governor of Georgia that was a Republican before Sonny Perdue was during reconstruction, and he absconded with funds from the treasury (btw, he was absolved of that, but the money never showed back up). The state senate and house of representatives were filled with Dems to the tune of about 90% to 10%. If you wanted to make it in politics in this state, you ran as a Democrat even if you weren’t. Otherwise, you’d be wasting your money and wouldn’t get elected. It was a major surprise that Saxby won, but he has a track record of winning seats that no other Republicans (or very few) had won.

Dale Cardwell’s DUI | Radio & TV Talk

June 10th, 2010
11:15 pm

[...] Former WSB-TV reporter Dale Cardwell committed a DUI the day before I posted my story about Dale Cardwell’s trustdale.com site! Great timing! Cardwell was pulled over just after midnight on June 3 at the intersection of [...]

PaulaJ

June 11th, 2010
2:39 am

Say what you will about Dale Cardwell, he was one hell of a reporter. This is why after three years you all are still talking about him. YOU HATERS! He was not afraid to expose corruption in government. He kept us informed. I cannot say the same for the rest of you reporters. Many of you ran from Vernon Jones when Dale held his feet to the fire. Hold your head up Dale!!!

Marcus Graham

June 11th, 2010
9:13 am

HE’S NOT JUST ANNOYING, HE’S AN ANNOYING DRUNK!

Ron N' Mexico

June 11th, 2010
10:18 am

Can Dale recomend a good place to get a drink around here? Sounds like he found one.

Jenni

June 11th, 2010
1:29 pm

God forbid anyone to make a mistake. I bet none of you have EVER driven after having one drink. You’re just lucky you didn’t get caught. Take a look at your own life before you start judging others.

One Drink?

June 11th, 2010
6:33 pm

One drink, Jenni? Is that fact or speculation? If I had one drink, I would take the test. The only reason to refuse the test is if you feel you might fail it. I hope Dale is innocent, but this can’t help but damage or destroy the TrustDale brand. You have to pay big bucks to be on the TrustDale website. Not sure his clients are going to want to continue to do that. Dale should file an open records request and have the videotape of his field sobriety test released.

Joel Dockery

June 11th, 2010
10:30 pm

You people are funny, thinking that a journalist is “untainted” by advertisers funds.

Rachel

June 14th, 2010
2:18 am

Who cares what political side the guy is on?
Dem, Repub.,…. they have liars on both sides and honest people on both sides. C’mon folks, do you seriously expect anyone to believe that EVERY Democrat is a liar and EVERY republican is honest (or the reverse)?
If you make that claim, then you yourselves lack credibility. And you also appear to have serious issues with trying to control the world and force everyone to think like you. Good luck with that.

Roger

June 19th, 2010
7:59 am

This is all a big scam. Come one… the guy just got a DUI and I’m suppose to trust his judgement. If you pay him, he will make you look like a saint, even if you have had multiple complaints with the BBB. Just go look at some of these companies he’s covered and then check out their BBB complaints. I think this guy is a crook and should be arrested. Oh wait… he just was. Well they should arrest him again! This is flat out consumer fraud. You don’t ask companies to pay you to say they are trustworthy. He needs to go back to busting bad companies and find a way to get paid for doing that. He seems to have a nac for finding the worst companies out there. Only now he’s changed his opinion of them to “trustworthy” since they are paying him. Well Dale… just the fact that they are paying you to do that shows that they are not! USA! USA!