Phil Gyford


Sunday 1 June 2003

PreviousIndexNext We're all reporters now

Last week I mentioned (penultimate paragraph) that companies probably don’t connect how they deal with journalists to how they deal with employees who have weblogs. ie, many companies now contain well-read writers (webloggers) and don’t necessarily think of making explicit what company news is and isn’t public. Whereas they’d be very careful when talking to professional reporters. Anyway, Ben Hammersley today talks about how webloggers should respect “off the record” events as much as mainstream reporters do, following “a little fuss” kicked off by a weblogger reporting a briefing when journalists in the same room were obliged not to.


You'd be surprised just how many companies don't know how to handle the press never mind their own employees.

Ones SO trains such companies how to do it, handle the fourth estate that is, and most are clueless and so, so open to being talked into something they really didn't want to be quoted.

Posted by Frank on 2 June 2003, 12:40 am | Link

Whistle blowers of recent times, be they David Shayler, Clive Ponting, Peter Mandeleson, do what they do against the wishes of their employers or companies. They may act out of conscience, they may act out of spite, they may be right, they may have no moral high ground at all. They don't need a blogg, just a good story or a sympathetic journalist/editor.

Companies can sack employees, make life unbearable for them if they wish should they breach a confidence. I don't quite see the facination or the importance of this. I can't accept the underlying assumption there seems to be that Bloggs give people a voice for the first time which requires a new set of rules. People have a voice and the consequences of using it are the same now as they were ten years ago.

Posted by Richard Hyett on 3 June 2003, 10:51 am | Link

No, I think you're wrong. (It's probably best if we remove the trendy weblog issue from the equation by just calling them all websites.)

Certainly, if someone has huge news like the people you mention they may be better off going to conventional media that have a larger immediate reach. But someone may have news that is hugely important to a small subset of society. Newspapers wouldn't be interested, but if the person had a weblog that was read by many people within their social group they can swiftly get the word out.

Before personal websites became so popular (something the blogging trend has hugely encouraged) the only other avenue for such informal reporting was word of mouth or small-scale personal/group publishing with all the barriers to entry and distribution that entails.

Posted by Phil Gyford on 3 June 2003, 11:16 am | Link

A good example of this would be the Bruce Springsteen concert in Manchester I went to last week, for the first time I am able to share with 464 others over 30 pages, their sycophantic views of the concert.

No barriers to entry, reaches a small subset of society. I can share my views with others for the first time.

Now suppose I have something serious to say about my employer, something dramatic in the field of pork pie production. Who exactly is this going to reach when I blast it from my weblog/website? No barriers to entry, no audience, no news, a message in a bottle. "Informal reporting" soliloquy you mean.

Posted by Richard Hyett on 4 June 2003, 12:17 am | Link

If you think I'm saying that any single person can post something out of the blue to the web and have thousands of people read it then you've obviously got the wrong end of the stick.

If you look back at the original post I described how news of UpMyStreet being bought by uSwitch reached professional media through the relatively popular site of Tom Coates.

I'm saying it's possible for people to have a sizeable readership and not be professional reporters. And I'm saying employers need to be aware of such people. Which all seems obvious and true to me.

Posted by Phil Gyford on 4 June 2003, 12:33 am | Link

In fact, just by posting something here Richard, you've reached an audience (albeit modest).

Posted by Phil Gyford on 4 June 2003, 10:37 am | Link

It is worth saying that many of the best writers in todays news media, so called professional journalists, have no journalistic training at all. They have an ability to write and perhaps renown in some other field.

In the same way that I now no longer use a travel agent to book a holiday, I am able to publicise news of my employer/company without reference to any middleman (journalist). My point is that I don't think this is significant, cutting out the middlemen is no big deal, unless you happen to be the middleman. It is not significant because the means of publicising news have always been there. The growth of personal blogs/web sites will not lead to any change in the relationship between employee and employer, unless you achieve significant and exceptional renown.

The web is more encouraging of anonymous contributions and provides more fertile ground for rumour. A lack of discipline and personal responsiblity give rise to the very existence of some replusive groups/sites and ruin others. So for example you get spam flooding a bona fide group, you get unecessary use of profanity, you get people saying things that are untrue knowing they will not be held to account for their words. You get this elsewhere I know, but not to the same degree.

If you are actively looking for news/information and subscribe to a news alerting service such as then the web is hard to beat. The move from push to pull is well under way at least in my use of the Internet. Though I doubt it sometimes given the prevelance of adverts and pop up windows.

These contributions are intended to be just that. Rather than win any arguments, I am looking for areas of comment and discussion where the whole is greater than the sum of the parts. I don't disagree profoundly with anything you say, I'm just providing a different emphasis.

Posted by Richard Hyett on 5 June 2003, 10:43 am | Link

But if you think the growth of personal websites makes no difference to one's ability to publicise news then you're disagreeing with what I'm saying.

And I don't think one requires "significant and exceptional renown." Some renown doesn't hurt, but a site could be read by a handful of (the right) people and it could have an effect. But, also, I'm not saying everyone in a company could break news. Just that it is now much easier for people to do so than it was before the internet was popular.

Cutting out the middleman is a big deal for anyone who would have had to pay him a lot of money.

Posted by Phil Gyford on 5 June 2003, 11:23 am | Link

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