Old v. new
: In a post below, I noted that Rafat Ali beat the hell out of the big, lazy papers with his scoop on Starz and Real teaming up to create an Internet movie channel. In the comments, a “reporter” — who didn’t have the guts to leave name or affiliation — snarked about Rafat’s work:
Reporters do read blogs, but in order to get the full details on a story like this, they typically agree to an embargo. In this case, the embargo was for Monday, June 14. Rafat broke the embargo by reporting the story Friday, which no reporter at a professional publication could do if s/he wanted to be able to interview executives in the future. Perhaps more importantly, Rafat got several important details of the story wrong. Those who respected for the embargo had access to company executives and therefore, by and large, didn’t.
I did nothing, for I knew it wouldn’t take any time at all for Rafat to come back swinging, as well he should:
Had you read my story, you would have seen the first para which says both Starz and Real refused to comment on the story. I had been working on the story since early last week, since Rob Glaser shot off his mouth at the D Conference by telling people present at the conference that they were launching this service next week. Someone passed on the tip to me…
The first thing I did was contact the two companies, saying I am doing the story, they should comment officially. but they did not want to spoil there PR plans, which of course I was not a part of.
I spoke to about 20 people, just none of them the official sources, since they didn’t want to. I don’t adhere to PR schedules, since I am usually not a part of these schedules. I am known to spoil companies’ PR plans by breaking stories through unofficial sources..its called reporting, Mr Reporter. Did you learn your journalism from a PR school?
Go get ‘im, Rafat! Exactly. If all you do is wait for the embargo to be lifted and the press release to be sent out to write your story, then we don’t need you, Mr. Reporter; we, too, can read the press release. That kind of news is a commodity. It’s also controlled news; by then, it’s spun into cotton candy. Let me say that again: We don’t need reporters to give us that sort of “news.” Especially in a day when news organizations are losing audience and revenue and need to decide where to put their resources, the worst place to put them is in retyping press releases at the same time everyone else is retyping them, after the embargo is lifted. For that, link to the damned release. Start a blog. We still need reporters to do real reporting, to ask the questions people don’t want to answer, not the ones they send out on the PR Newswire.
: UPDATE: The “reporter” leaves a response in the comments below that’s just as frightening as the first:
Please. This is entertainment business journalism, not Watergate. Breaking the “news” that this service was launching is not some big scoop. Everyone knew it was coming fairly soon.
Well, “reporter,” you still should be serving your audience, your public, by telling them what you know as soon as possible. That’s when it’s still news, not just a press release.
By respecing the embargo, professional reporters were able to get all their details right, something Rafat didn’t do. They also maintain good relationships with the companies they cover so that they can get good stories in the future.
You really are looking upon your job as that of a flack. Get this straight: The relationship that matters is with your audience, not with your sources!
That’s not the schoolchild’s ideal journalism, but it’s the real world. And it’s obvious that Rafat’s “tip” can in one way or another be sourced back to somebody who knew about the embargoed news.
So, clearly, Rafat had better relationships with better sources than you did, for Rafat got the story first and Rafat served his audience, his public better.
The simple fact is that blogs can do whatever they want, but professional reporters need to pick and choose their battles, and getting several important details wrong in order to break a story like this a (business) day early is not something that professional reporters an afford to do.
Hate to break it to you, mate, but Rafat is a professional reporter. He makes money reporting. He serves a public. He gets quoted. He breaks news. He’s as professional a reporter as I know.
If professional reporters acted like some bloggers do, there wouldn’t be any business news getting broken, by and large.
Turn that prism the other way: If reporters acted like bloggers like Rafat, they’d be breaking news instead of just retyping press releases.
Bloggers like Rafat provide an important service, but most of what they do is leeching off of what professional reporters do, either through links along with commentary or by “breaking” news that we have to agree to embargo. Claiming the moral high ground when they wouldn’t exist without us is laughable.
Looks to me as if you leached off both Rafat and your industry’s press releases to write the same damned story everybody else wrote.
What’s most shocking about this exchange is that you know Rafat’s name and my name but you don’t know this alleged “reporter’s” name. I don’t either.
And folks wonder why the public doesn’t trust “reporters.” This is a case study.