I can’t say I’m a big fan of Sarah Lacy. She seems just a tad too enamored with and starry-eyed over the Web 2.0 crowd she covers as a journalist. But now that the (almost) full video of her SXSW interview with Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg is out, it’s clear the negative reaction on blogs and Twitter was completely disproportionate to the crimes committed. Yes, Lacy’s mannerisms are somewhat annoying. Yes, her personal anecdotes about her encounters with Zuckerberg were pointless and made me cringe. And yes, her defensiveness was the worst way she could have reacted to a hostile crowd. But I thought most of her questions were thoughtful and well-informed. On the other hand, Zuckerberg’s answers were long-winded and largely uninteresting. The interview was nowhere near the “train wreck” that people made it to be. Nor did it descend into “chaos.” Lacy got mugged by the Twitter mob. Zuckerberg got a pass. Why?
Archive for the 'Journalism' Category
It’s sort of beside the point - kind of like asking how you’d rather be executed - but someone raised the issue again of how the Mercury News laid off employees today. In the last round of layoffs, and again today, management ordered everyone to stay home between 8 a.m and 10 a.m. to await a phone call. If they called you before 10 a.m., you were history. No phone call and you were safe. It’s an excruciating two hours and somewhat impersonal. But I’m struggling to see a better alternative. Is walking up to someone’s desk and marching them into HR or the editor’s office - in full view of the newsroom - somehow more humane or respectful? I’d be mortified if I had to go out that way, in front of my friends and colleagues. And when do you do something like that? At a pre-set time? Randomly? How, dear readers, should these situations be handled? How is it done elsewhere? I’m curious.
At the risk of offending my friends and former colleagues still at the San Jose Mercury News, I’m writing its obituary today. There will be more buyouts and layoffs this week, the fourth round of en-masse departures in the last few years. Sadly, I fear the paper will not recover.
I worked at the Merc for 11 years, and for about half that time we were a helluva little paper. We competed aggressively with the San Francisco Chronicle, we wrote big stories with sophistication, had a kick-ass state capital bureau, and for a time, we covered Silicon Valley and technology like no one else. A lot of really talented people moved through Ridder Park Drive in the decade I was there. That’s not to say we reporters didn’t bitch and moan about where we worked. We did, a lot. But looking back, we didn’t see how good we had it.
Now? Here’s what’s going to happen: Continue Reading »
April 27, 2006: Ridder: Singleton will be a very good steward of the Merc
“While McClatchy may be buying Knight Ridder, we’re getting the flagship and the crown jewel of Knight Ridder,” Dean Singleton told the San Jose Mercury News staff Wednesday. He appeared with KR CEO Tony Ridder, who called Singleton a man who “loves newspapers” and who will be “a very good steward of the Mercury News.”
May 22, 2006: Question: Who Is MediaNews’s Dean Singleton?
Indeed, Mr. Singleton intends to make a showcase of The San Jose Mercury News, in the heart of Silicon Valley, as a kind of laboratory for how to meld print with the Web. He is so excited about the prospects that he plans to buy a home in the Bay Area, while keeping his primary residence in Denver.
Mr. Singleton said he had no plans to reduce the staff, change the guard or consolidate operations in the Bay Area under one roof.
December 6, 2006: Mercury News layoff tally: Job cuts are trimmed to 35
The San Jose Mercury News completed a round of layoffs Tuesday that trimmed its workforce by 35 employees in one of the first big moves under its new owner, MediaNews Group.
July 2, 2007: The San Jose Mercury News Lays Off 31 Employees
The San Jose Mercury News laid off 31 newsroom employees on Monday, as part of a series of cost-cutting moves since being purchased last year by Denver-based MediaNews. Mercury News managers delivered the bad news to the laid-off employees during a series of phone calls to their homes on Monday morning.
February 19, 2008: Bay Area papers seek buyouts to cut costs
The company that operates the Oakland Tribune, Contra Costa Times, San Jose Mercury News and other Bay Area papers has extended voluntary buyout offers to nearly all of its employees and may resort to layoffs as it struggles with a historic slump in the newspaper industry.
The San Jose Mercury News extended a similar buyout offer to the nonunion employees of its 900-person staff, Publisher Mac Tully said. Its union employees, who already have severance agreements in their contracts with similar terms, are also free to accept the invitation to leave, he said.
You can put all the video and bells and whistles and social networking tools that you want on your media web site, but at the end of the day what still matters is good original journalism that stands out amid the white noise. Which is a long-winded way of saying that you should go read Fred Vogelstein’s piece in Wired about the genesis of the iPhone. Nice juicy details, good writing. It will become part of the iPhone lore.
Ev Williams (of Blogger/Twitter) felt the need to clarify some points about the new Economist story about him. As a longtime journalist, I cringe whenever I see a blog post like this because I believe it erodes the credibility of the profession. In this instance, the Economist paraphrased Williams as having said that he “hated every minute of his time” when he worked at Google. Williams (very politely) says that’s not true. The article also notes that Williams was at Google less than a year, when in fact he was there longer.
These are perhaps small errors on the part of the Economist, except that maybe Williams doesn’t want to burn every last bridge at Google by publicly badmouthing the company, or be known as “the guy who hated working at Google.” When you’re the subject of a news story, nuance is everything.
The problem with these situations is that we really don’t know what Williams said. Only the reporter and Williams do. The reporter may have inadvertently (or intentionally) put words in Williams’ mouth. Or it’s possible that Williams did tell the reporter he hated every minute at Google (either explicitly or by implication), but when he saw the words in black and white, they didn’t ring true or they were too strong to acknowledge. We often surprise ourselves with what we say.
Regardless, there are ways to avoid these situations. The most obvious is for the reporter to call the source of a story once it’s written and to read back quotes and how they will be used in context. I’ve only met one reporter who does this religiously. Few reporters do this because it’s time-consuming and sometimes difficult to reach the sources. Some reporters stubbornly believe they are infallible. And a lot of reporters just don’t want to open the door to sources backpedaling from good quotes or trying to reshape a story after-the-fact.
Those are understandable concerns. But with media credibility at an all-time low, journalists have no excuse not to make the extra effort to get it right.
(BTW, the Economist story is an otherwise nice read. Check it out.)