September 19, 2020

Finkelstein Replies on ARDG and the Press

Seth Finkelstein replies to my previous posting on companies’ press policies by suggesting that companies are rational to keep their engineers away from the press, because of concerns about being unfairly misquoted.

I can see his point, by I think hatchet-job stories are pretty rare in the respectable media, and I also think that most readers recognize such stories and discount them. Reporters resent being manipulated and are more likely to seize on a misstatement if it is the only interesting thing you say. If you want them to write about substance, you have to talk to them about substance.

Seth’s example, the “Al Gore invented the Internet” story, is a good illustration. Gore’s organization was trying to manipulate the press, as all political campaigns do. Gore was available to the press mainly in highly scripted situations, so when he went off script and said something he shouldn’t have said, it was newsworthy.

(And though too much was made of Gore’s statement, he did say, “I took the initiative in creating the Internet”, which just isn’t true. Yes, Gore deserves credit for promoting the Internet before almost anyone else on Capitol Hill had even heard of it; and yes, he did take the initiative in funding the Internet at a crucial stage of its build-out. But there is a big difference between creating something and merely paying for a stage of its construction.)