Silicon Valley Watcher - Former FT journalist Tom Foremski reporting from the intersection of technology and media

Transparancy chatter is a current fashion. . .

Posted by Tom Foremski - March 10, 2006

By Tom Foremski for SiliconValleyWatcher

There has been a lot written recently on the subject of transparency in media, PR and blogging. Josh Hallett over at Hyku blog has a nice roundup.

Media organizations/blogs are already very transparent. You can see who is advertising and you know who the blogger works for. Thus when Robert Scoble blogs about MSFT, the monetary connection is transparent yet it doesn't detract from his passion or his views.

Do people want to peek into the PR pitching and story-production-process? I doubt it, it's boring but hey, if they have the time on their hands let them check it out.

I often write and speak on the topic of how news is written and how PR companies attempt to manipulate the press through many strategies. I think it's useful to know how the media sausage is made, and this is a form of media literacy that we should be teaching in the schools.

But I'm not sure there is much usefulness in having access to every minute of my day--who I interact with, where I ate lunch (today at Town Hall--guest of Horn Group and their clients RightNow Technologies, Collabnet, and MySQL.)

I sometimes publish the pitches sent to me, but only if they are well written. Sometimes the pitches will be better than the press release that is sent out. And I will publish more about how the sausage is made because there is a tremenous amount of misunderstanding at how media is produced.

One of the ways PR companies manipulate the press is through granting or refusing access to their top executives. This is part of the belief that they must control a company message and punish those that seem hostile. Let's make such processes and attempts at manipulatin transparent.

This is very much old rules thinking and doesn't work anymore. The new rules approach is let go of trying to control the client's message and the interaction with the media.

I don't like to be manipulated and I don't know any other journalist who likes that kind of behavior. I get fantastic access to Silicon Valley's top executives which is great, but I don't require it to do what I do.

Fortunately, top execs seek me out, they want access to my readers, which is wonderful. But smaller publications are easier to control through granting access to interviews and pre-briefings.

Unfortunately, there is no level playing field, there is no universal right to access to top management. And there cannot be, there is not enough time in the world.

That's why most of the blogosphere has to comment on the work of others, because they can't get the access. Unless they can boost their PageRank. It's a cruel law that affects every publication, online or offline.

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