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For The Record…

Awhile back Dan Gillmore made an interesting suggestion. Steal a leaf out of the playbook of Don Rumsfeld and post all interview transcripts to the web. This was a terrific move on his part and I think sets the standard for all public officials.

Aside from delivering total transparency on what actually happens in interviews – which, surprise, surprise, generally bears no relation to what gets printed in the article – this would have the added benefit of leveling the journalistic playing-field. So to speak. And we get to see not just what the media what to print, but also what the interviewee wants to say.

Quick segway – what will also happen is the slightly less savvy PR pro will alter transcripts and post them to the web as the official record – as Mr Rumsfeld’s team did – thereby creating a whole new news cycle and story. (thanks to my old colleague David Chamberlin for shooting over the link).

Now, nearly every journalist I’ve polled on this idea has been vehemently opposed to it (except Dan of course). No surprises there. What is surprising to me is some of the more the extreme views. For instance, you can’t post the interview even after the article has been published because it’s (and I quote), “my intellectual property”. Um, yeah, right…

Pissing off journalists is generally bad PR practice so I’m not sure who will make the first leap to doing this, but it will happen. I’m definitely more keen on recommending it to our management team and here’s why.

An article by Glasser in the the latest issue in the Online Journalism Review (and Tim Porter’s blog) has an interesting piece that points to the attitude of traditional journalists. Seems Mark Cuban felt a little hard done by given an article published by Kevin Blackistone, a Dallas Morning News sports columnist. They’d exchanged emails in March about Cuban’s basketball team, the Dallas Mavericks – part of which was published… Mark felt Blackistone quoted him out of context (that’s never happened to an exec before!), so Cuban published Blackistone’s original email to him… And the story goes on.

Glasser asked Blackistone what he thought of this…

“I didn’t think much of being surprised by having what I thought was a private exchange with Mark Cuban posted on a public Web site. That is a reason I stopped responding to readers years ago, because I discovered they started posting my personal responses to them on message boards.”

As Tim rightly points out this was a public exchange so he shouldn’t have been surprised. What this really points to is a general reluctance by traditional media to open the window to the reporting process and expose their bias towards the story or the subject matter. Why not let the facts shine – someone once said that sunlight is the best disinfectant. Today, blogs and web make it incredibly economical and easy to shine sunlight on stories.

This is where publishing transcripts could get really interesting. It would be much better to simply publish all transcripts post publication than selectively address stories that somehow piss you off. Or, here’s a novel idea, why don’t the publications make the entire transcript available on their web site – in raw form.

Nixon was wrong, the press isn’t the enemy. Lack of transparency is.

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