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Archive for August 21st, 2012

Journalists should always drive a hard bargain before agreeing to withhold a source’s name.

Andrew Beaujon, my former TBD colleague now writing for Poynter, doesn’t think it’s a big deal to let company spokespeople speak without identification:

I’m also a little loath to rip the practice because half the time I don’t think readers care which flack passed on the frequently anodyne statements I’m including.

Andrew was responding to David Segal, who writes “The Haggler” column for the New York Times. In trying to address a complaint from a consumer about a Samsung printer, Segal expressed dismay about a spokesperson who declined to be identified:

When the Haggler wrote to Samsung, a woman named Rachel Quinlan, who works for the public relations firm Weber Shandwick, sent an e-mail that she said should be attributed to a “spokesperson” for the company. She declined to name that person.

Really? A spokesperson — a person who speaks for a living — who wants to be anonymous? Not only does this sound ridiculous, it also makes Samsung seem tin-eared. Actually, that is unfair to tin, which is far more supple than Samsung is in this circumstance. What consumers and the Haggler want when products break is some sense that human beings are trying to fix them. (Note to corporations: the anonymous spokesman is a dreadful idea.) (more…)

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Wow. This is going to be a short blog post because you shouldn’t be reading me, you should be reading Mark Potts.

Mark’s A Vision for the Future of Newspapers — 20 Years Ago is one of the most insightful pieces you will read on the history of news online and the opportunities blown by newspapers.

He tells the story of a memo Post Managing Editor Robert G. Kaiser wrote 20 years ago after returning from an Apple-sponsored conference in Japan. Awestruck by the upcoming developments he heard forecast (nearly all of which are old hat by now), Kaiser wrote:

None of this is science fiction — it’s just around the corner.

The memo, which quaintly notes “Hook” as a movie viewers might want to see, and Mark’s reflection 20 years later provide insights into a sincere effort by a great newspaper to get ahead of the digital curve that it clearly saw coming.

Mark also reflects on the industry’s failure at digital efforts:

The history of the past 20 years of newspapers and digital media is, unfortunately, a legacy of timidity, missed opportunities and a general lack of imagination and guts to leap into the future.

But stop reading me. Go read Mark. I can’t remember the last piece I read that was this good about the history of digital news.

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