The debate about whether or not a journalist should blog is moot at this point. They blog – and will continue to blog in the foreseeable future.
But blogging can be a slippery slope for traditional journalists because blogging is about opinion and point of view while traditional journalism (at least in the United States) is about being impartial and balanced.
So when a reporter writes a balanced news story about a company and then blogs his opinions on the company – is she undermining her creditability?
That’s the big question.
Two recent episodes at Racepoint haven given us greater insight into the challenges journalists, PR consultants, and business executives face in the world of Press 2.0.
One of our technology executives was recently interviewed by a Boston Globe columnist. After the interview, the client and columnist engaged in small talk and the name of my boss, Larry Weber, came up. Our client and the columnist made a bet that Larry had his own blog.
He does not (and believes CEOs shouldn’t blog). The next day the columnist wrote a blog posting about Larry’s Phantom Blog. The executive was mentioned in the blog post, but not by name. Regardless, he sent an email explanation to Larry and said that he had no idea that the columnist planned on blogging about that part of the conversation.
(On a side note: the post playfully questioned Larry’s social media credentials because he doesn’t blog. From my perspective that’s like questioning the expertise of a football commentator because he’s never played in the NFL, refuting the creditability of an English professor to analyze a novel without having published one. It would also be like questioning whether business journalists should be allowed to write about business if they’ve never worked for one).
The second incident occurred in the spring when a journalist for the BBC wrote a story about another client. The BBC reporter talked to the client who had relayed some misinformation, which was dutifully written about. I called the reporter and asked for the information to be corrected.
I had a 30 minute conversation with the reporter. He insisted the team member “had said it” during the interview and that he was within his rights to report it. I agreed. But I told him the information was still wrong. Was it his job to parrot what he’d been told or to pass on accurate news to his readers? He finally agreed to issue a correction.
But in a box inside the body of the corrected news story he provided a link to his blog. In his blog, he discusses, in detail, my conversation with him and why, ultimately, he decided to correct the story. I wasn’t mentioned by name, but I had considered our telephone conversation private.
I still talk to this reporter and when I’m passing on information via email or telephone, I’ll humorlessly add a disclaimer about the conversation being private and not be used in blogging. I know it annoys him (which is part of the fun) – but I also believe that journalists need to inform people if they plan on blogging about a conversation.
We’ve also had cases at Racepoint where overeager bloggers have posted email pitches verbatim online. As I tell my colleagues – pitches aren’t news stories, but some bloggers apparently don’t understand that.
Blogs are a wonderful tool, but it’s still a new medium and the rules of engagement are still being hammered out. We’ll explore some of our ideas and recommendations for the new rules of engagement in future posts.