Fighting Fire with Fire… Turning the tables on Media

posted by Brendan Hodgson

So… has the posting of media interview transcripts by interviewees — even before the article is published — become the latest trend in communications? Dan Gillmor at the Center for Citizen Media appears to believe this is the case. The evidence seems to support him.

Most recently, Dan, along with Mathew Ingram of the Globe & Mail, have written about the travails of Overstock.com CEO Patrick Byrne in his dealings with Tim Mullaney, a reporter for BusinessWeek.

In response to receiving a long list of questions from Mr. Mullaney, Mr. Byrne elected to post Mr. Mullaney’s questions, and his responses, online. You can read the questions here, and Mr. Byrne’s responses here.

This story raises a number of important issues… not least, it expands upon the comments made by my colleague Niall Cook in his blog on the ethics of posting private emails. As Mr. Byrne states in his response to Mullaney, “Since you did nothing to indicate the interview was off-the-record I am treating it as on-the-record (that is the journalistic convention, I believe), and so have reprinted your letter below. I trust also that you do not mind me responding in this public forum, as you also failed to stipulate otherwise (as some reporters have when they interview me by email).” When it comes to privacy, should media be treated any differently? (a partially loaded question, no doubt)

Certainly, this activity would appear to level the playing field with respect to the traditional journalist – interviewee relationship, and offer further safeguards against the potential for lazy or shoddy journalism that can occur even at the most respected of publications. It provides a clear window into the motivations of the reporter and the style of questioning being employed. Moreover, and where reporters tend to publish only small snippets of interviews, the ability to view full transcripts can provide critical context behind the selected quotes. Then again, does this activity not contradict the role of the journalist in presenting the “whole” story… not simply one side, as such a transcript would present. Might one also look at the possibility that what was posted is in fact not what was said… who to believe?

What do you think about this trend, faithful reader?

5 Comments
18

Jan
2006

Bob

I’ve posted about your post (with credit, I should note) on my blog Flacklife.

This is a fascinating issue, and one I plan on following. Media relations can and should be a collaborative enterprise, but sometimes it isn’t. Is this a way for organizations to ‘fight back’ when media raise their ’spidey senses’?

I think so.

With the advent of the blogosphere, RSS, and the like, I think the term "disintermediation" is just coming of age. Why wait for Business Week to tell your investors what to think, when you can tell them yourself — and tell them what Business Week’s tactics are while you’re at it?

Excellent post, glad you did it.

23

Jan
2006

Bob

The Blog Run hits for Monday, January 23

24

Jan
2006

Colin McKay

Byrne, you have to remember, is increasingly strident about short-sellers and the media he thinks collaborates with them to drive down his company’s stock price.

Somehow, comparing Byrne with rational executives reminds me of an Animal House quote:

Hoover: Kent is a legacy, Otter. His brother was a ‘59, Fred Dorfman.

Flounder: He said legacies usually get asked to pledge automatically.

Otter: Oh, well, usually. Unless the pledge in question turns out to be a real closet-case.

Otter, Boon: Like Fred.

13

Feb
2007

Krempasky.com

Let me start by saying I don’t have any particular interest in Overstock.com. I certainly don’t own any of its stock and while I’ve shopped there the results have been decidedly hit and miss. Mostly hit.
But I have spent

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