The age of "post-integrity" journalism?
We were very happy to help out our long-time friends in the industry, Paul Gillin and David Strom, by hosting a celebration of sorts of the one year anniversary of Tech PR War Stories, their podcast examining issues shaping both old and new media, as well as good and bad tech PR practices. The evening centered on a roundtable discussion in which me and Lois participated along with other guests representing other vantage points. Prior to the podcast recording, we feasted and toasted Paul and David on their milestone.
In addition to Lois and myself, the panel consisted of:
- Bob Scheier, IT/business writer
- Steve Hall, professional blogger and publisher of Adrants
- Bill Frezza, General Partner of Adams Capital Management.
As Paul and David describe in their post with the podcast, it was indeed a spirited discussion and debate that mostly centered on the fate of mainstream media and traditional journalism because of bloggers and social media. Lois and I discussed the opportunities companies have in this new environment and how social media needs to be integrated into the communications mix.
The greatest debate of the night was around whether bloggers can be co-opted by companies and therefore how credible they are as sources of information. Bill Frezza stated that "bloggers are incredibly easy to turn. All they need is attention, because attention improves their status. Bloggers want status and companies have status to invest in a blogger to engage in a dialogue with them. Companies need to help solve their problems and not sell them products. Once this relationship is started, companies then can offer to buy display ads on their blogs.
Interestingly, Steve Hall agreed in general with this, but felt that bad practices will be called out. He said most bloggers will vet what they receive because what they are putting on their blog is important to them in terms of building up a following and an audience. They want to create influence, so they need to be careful about what they put up and if it's something where they can be perceived by the audience at large as being a schill for a company, they'll lose that influence quickly. "For me, I've worked in advertising, have an interest in advertising, want to write about it and have a readership that wants to read about it. If it's trickery [information compromised because of a business relationship], I'm going to pass it over because readers don't want that."
The discussion continued with viewpoints on the difference between journalists and bloggers. The contrast here between Bob Scheier -- a veteran traditional journalist -- and Steve Hall was striking and characterizes what I think many journalists are going through in adapting to the new world of information delivery. Bob concisely said the difference is that journalists can get fired for screwing up -- by not vetting information they put in stories. Steve stated that he would publish something that is not 100% vetted. He feels that there's always gray area and opinion. He stated, "I won't write something that's not true, because if it's wrong or false, I will be castrated. I will be made the fool." If he doesn't have all the facts, he wants his readers to help help him bring all the facts forward. The community can add to the story.
On another thread of the discussion, I thought Bob's observation was interesting in response to my commentary about how social media affords the opportunity to reach the buying community directly. He pointed out how he now gets a lot less freelance work from publications and more writing work from vendors. "Every tech vendor is a publisher and want to frame the conversation through their own terms largely through things like white papers." In light of this, he said that he has not seen an uptake in blogs by tech companies and feels that this is a lost opportunity for them.
All in all, it was a very enjoyable evening and we were glad that Paul and David gave us the opportunity to host and be part of the celebration. You can download the podcast here.