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June 20, 2005
What if PR people blogged journalists?
Steve Rubel responded to my post about publishing notes with a question: What if PR people, perhaps unhappy with a journalist's take on an executive interview, blogged their own version of the interview? From a journalist's point of view, I'd say it's fair game. The real question is what their client would say. But here's another question, what if the client calls up a blogging PR person and asks him or her to blog a different version of the interview? Who calls the shots?
If you're wondering about who calls the shots over here, we're on our own. I think we're viewed as a new media laboratory that needs to run on its own. Of course, if we posted something that appeared to discredit the BW brand, we'd hear about it in a hurry.
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Back in May 2003 Vanity Fair magazine published an article based on an interview with Deputy Secretary of Defense Paul Wolfowitz. Some of the text of the article raised more than a few eyebrows at the Pentagon and beyond. The Pentagon's response was to publish (on their website) the full text transcript of the interview. But even with the full transcript in hand, there was still some confusion since some of the questions were a bit convoluted, as were some of the answers. The editors did their best to "fix" the confusion, but that led to more confusion.
In any case, public availability of notes and transcripts can at least help to identify were the confusion or points of dispute arise.
The beauty of a blog is that you can quickly get feedback from readers as to points that are not clear and quickly put out corrections or amplifications.
In summary: Show me the transcripts, and I'll evaluate them and make up my own mind.
One sticky issue is answers that the interviewee wishes to retract or ammend, including those based on too-hasty interpretations of questions.
Finally, one admonition: please be honest with readers; if a PR agent or any other party has intervened and "fixed" the text of interview, make sure that readers are alerted to the fact that the interview response is *not* literal.
And if anybody wants to be enlightened as to how an article can evolve from a raw interview, take a look at that Vanity Fair article and transcript.
-- Jack Krupansky
Posted by: Jack Krupansky at June 20, 2005 11:34 AM
Are we supposed to care?
I think it's got less to do with the blogger and a lot more to do with those that would read the blog. People who browse the blogosphere seem to pick and choose according to their own tastes and needs. I bet that lots of blog readers are already adept at finding out the camouflaged advertisement. In addition, I'd bet that blog readers aren't shy about critiquing blogs that turn out to be more marketing.
Posted by: Pete Zievers at June 20, 2005 11:50 AM
There definitely are PR people practicing today, in fact, the majority, who would let a client tell them to blog an altered version of an interview transcript. Doing that would be career suicide for both the flack and the company.
While there will always be spin -- on the media and the PR side -- bloggers and the public who read have increasingly sophisticated bullshit detectors.
I agree that there is a lot of extraneous information, half sentences, incomplete thoughts in interview transcripts. In the event of a controversy I would favor having the transcript available.
Good reporting involves a lot more than regurgitating quotes. The real skill of journalism and blogging is in finding the comments worth quoting, putting them into a context that explains an issue and keeping the story as short as possible.
Posted by: B.L. Ochman at June 20, 2005 12:47 PM
I agree with B.L. that good journalism and blogging has to do with getting to the heart of things quickly and efficiently. I do not suggest that we should blog notes in lieu of writing stories, but perhaps in addition to it.
As Jack mentioned, sometimes the notes themselves are confusing. And I might add, they themselves represent only one view of the interview. When I take notes, for example, I write down on the sentences that seem interesting to me. Sometime a sentence starts off well and gets boring, and I drop it. Others I miss because I'm busy typing the last one. So, there's nothing definitive about notes. It's just more documentation.
Which brings me back to the PR people. If they have a transcript of the interview, I don't see anything wrong about blogging that.
Posted by: steve baker at June 20, 2005 01:18 PM
Somethhing weird: when I click on my name under the comment I made,i am taken to yahoo's home page rather than the home page for my blog, What's Next Blog at http://www.whatsnextblog.com
several other names i clicked on also were wrongly directed. thought you'd want to know. i am using firefox if that makes a difference.
Posted by: B.L. Ochman at June 20, 2005 02:42 PM
I see exactly what you mean about the link, B.L. Thanks for notifying us and we'll take a look.
Posted by: Heather Green at June 20, 2005 03:11 PM
This is why I advocate the practice of media transparency. RSS and RSS w/enclosures makes for an excellet way to broadcast the raw materials that go into any story (including text, audio, video, etc.). Then, the reader can be the judge. It's also says a lot about you as a journalist if you're willing to put the raw material out there. Knowing that you've opened your kimono, most people probably won't even check it. Apologies if you visit the aforementioned URL (my media transparency channel) only to find that it hasn't been updated in a while. I've been busy, but I'm working on some new posts. For an example of such media transparency, see http://blogs.zdnet.com/BTL/index.php?p=940.
Posted by: David Berlind (ZDNet) at June 20, 2005 10:22 PM
Steve, I wasn't referring to you in my comment on the other blog. I have interviewed some journalists, and actually in pitching I tend to talk about other subjects and have the reporters do the same.
Some people find it uncomfortable to find the shoe on the other foot. It's an odd experience. Those journalists that have put themselves out there at events are already seasoned in dealing with questions - and off the wall questions - and respond accordingly. And do it well.
But, I haven't heard your nut graf! What's the story??
Posted by: Jeremy Pepper at June 21, 2005 12:18 AM