Monday, March 06, 2006

New York Times Wal-Mart/Blogger Story is Up

The article by Michael Barbaro, although thoroughly scooped by the blogosphere, is finally posted.

It deals with a campaign, articulated by Wal-Mart PR executive Marshall Manson, to curry favor with bloggers and get favorable coverage on blogs.

It’s not as grossly unfair as one might expect. But it makes way too much of a very few bloggers who simply cut and pasted from Marshall Manson’s e-mails.

This is lousy journalism, but it’s hardly sinister. How many newspapers have either printed press releases verbatim, or simply rewritten them slightly for publication?

Are some bloggers poor journalists? Certainly. But then Barbaro works for the paper that hired Jayson Blair. So blogging doesn’t have a monopoly on poor journalism.

He wants to make a big deal of the fact that we used three links that Manson sent us as the basis of a story, and used the material in the links in the same order that the links were listed in Manson’s e-mail.

He fails to mention that we visited each link, confirmed the facts from the linked articles, included blocks of text from the linked articles, and wrote our own commentary.

In our interview with Barbaro we told him exactly what we did, and asked him whether we should have changed the order. He responded: “That would have shown some creativity.”

That’s how petty his article is.

He doesn’t push too hard on the notion that bloggers should acknowledge the tips and leads that produced a story, perhaps because we forcefully asked him whether New York Times reporters do that.

He responded that “we have a book” — meaning that they have rules to follow.

We demanded of him whether the rules at the Times require acknowledging mere tips and leads, and he responded “I don’t know.”

We also pointed out to him that Times reporters include in stories material given “on background.” Such material can be used in a story, but the journalist not only can not identify the source, but can’t even allude to having a source.

So Barbaro seems to be implying that stricter attribution rules should apply to mere tips and leads than to material actually included in a story.

Perhaps our arguments to him caused him to back off of this a bit. We don’t really know.

He spends considerable time talking about how Marshall Manson, the executive who articulated the Wal-Mart PR campaign with bloggers, is conservative.

Perhaps Barbaro considers that relevant.

If it is, it only proves that Manson isn’t a whore. He’s not taking Wal-Mart’s money and doing something against his beliefs. He’s taking Wal-Mart’s money to do something he believes in.

If the article isn’t as bad as it might have been (and probably isn’t as bad as the one he set out to write), it creates a big “so what” in the mind of the reader.

Wal-Mart public relations types try to curry favor with bloggers. Dog bits man. That’s not news.


Post a Comment

Links to this post:

Create a Link

<< Home