The hardtracking staff realizes that times are hard for media outlets these days, but this seems a bit much.

From the redoubtable Jim Romenesko:



Why Mark Evans refused to work for the new owners of Inside Tucson Business



We’re sure plenty of publishers think the exact same thing, but this is the first we know of brazen enough to put it in writing.

Then again, more and more media manipulation is coming out of the shadows these days. Consider this Dan Shaughnessy piece from yesterday’s Boston Globe:


Telling nugget in the Los Angeles Times last month when Dodgers public relations director Joe Jareck talked about the team getting news out on the in-house website. While in Australia, Jareck spoke of feeding items to, saying, “We can spin it any way we want. You can tell the writer, ‘Here do this,’ and they’ll do it.’’ This is the trend. Control the message. Grips are overlapping (John Henry, for instance, owns the Globe, in case you had not heard), conflicts abound, lines are blurred, and true independence is hard to find.


We’re not sure what Shaughnessy expects from, which is clearly more marketing than news (despite this News section). We’d suggest no expectations would be a good place to start.

Of course, house organs aren’t the only outlets being manipulated by their sources. Witness this piece from New York Times Public Editor Margaret Sullivan.


When Sources Set the Ground Rules

SOMETIMES a single sentence can be a window into a world.

Such a sentence appeared in Sabrina Tavernise’s front-page article late last month about the federal Food and Drug Administration’s new guidelines for e-cigarettes. It read: “F.D.A. officials gave journalists an outline of the new rules on Wednesday, but required that they not talk to industry or public health groups until after Thursday’s formal release of the documents.”

That’s a concept that gives many journalists the creeps: the government telling journalists to whom they can and can’t talk.

Ira Stoll, the former New York Sun managing editor who writes the Smarter Times website, was one of the readers who was struck by the unusual sentence. He wrote with some valid questions, and a sense of outrage: “Who gave the F.D.A. the authority to stop journalists from asking questions? Why would any journalist agree to abide by such a requirement? Did The Times agree to it, and if it did agree to it, did it abide by the agreement? What is the F.D.A.’s rationale for such restrictions?”


According to Sullivan, their rationale is this: “Ms. Tavernise told me that the F.D.A. presented this arrangement to journalists in a positive light: It would give them a head start on understanding a dense and elaborate document.”

How thoughtful.

Sullivan’s conclusion: “Like quote approval, this practice ought to be stomped out. I’d like to see The Times push back — hard — against such restrictions in every instance, and be prepared to walk away from the story if need be.”

The hardtracking staff says ditto.

But wethinks the Times – and every other media outlet – will push back soft.



John R. Carroll is media analyst for NPR's Here & Now and senior news analyst for WBUR in Boston. He also writes at Campaign Outsider and It's Good to Live in a Two-Daily Town.
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