Wick Communications

Covering Google

In journalism on February 4, 2016 at 4:15 pm

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This week, The New York Times Insider featured reporter Conor Dougherty and his hunt for Larry Page. Dougherty is the NYT reporter assigned to cover Google, and people like company CEO Page.

The headline sort of says it all: “Try to interview Google’s cofounder. It’s emasculating.”

Today’s tech giants, companies like Google and Apple, are dedicated to sharing information, often information about you and I for which these companies pay nothing. Yet, they are some of the most closed ecosystems on the planet. Tech execs are famous for making maids sign non-disclosure agreements. They have state-of-the-art security and reporters rarely if ever really get a glimpse of what truly goes on behind the website. The New York Times asked to interview Page more than 18 months ago and is still waiting for an answer.

Being in Google’s figurative backyard, we run into this a bit at the Half Moon Bay Review. Recently, we wanted to interview Liv Wu. She is the director of something called the Google Teaching Kitchen. I’d like to ask her what that is, but she is sworn to secrecy. Even though she is a “local” who lives near the Review, was once a newspaper reporter like me and we were specifically guided to her with her email and phone number by a publicist. We wanted to ask her about her completely non-Google work as a member of a committee putting on a local festival.

Such requests had to go through Google, we were told. So we chose someone else to feature.

I mention all this because today’s business titans are more inaccessible than ever before. They rarely consent to interviews with journalists, preferring to issue their own unchallenged statements via social media. It’s so much easier that way. None of those pesky questions. …

Politicians, lawyers, journalists

In journalism on February 4, 2016 at 4:09 pm

Screen Shot 2016-02-04 at 10.03.58 AMWell, that hurts.

The fact is, a lot of people don’t trust us. This will come as no shock to anyone reading these words. It’s been a long time coming and the slide in public confidence has been persistent. Why would you say that is?

Gallup research showed last year that only four in 10 Americans have “a great deal” or “a fair amount” of trust that mass media will report fully and accurately the events of the day. That is down from 54 percent as late as 2003. That same research shows that it’s even worse among those under 50 and worse still for Republicans.

Regular Kicker readers won’t be surprised to learn I have a theory.

Confidence in all institutions is down. Increasingly, we don’t trust the government, the military, the postal service or the local power company. In fact, the trajectory of falling confidence in all those sectors is eerily similar.

That is partly due to misinformation spread on social media. People continue to believe everything they read on the Internet. If some yahoo on Yahoo says you can’t trust “mainstream media,” well there you go. The same is true for local governments that are continually strafed by half-truths on blogs and in newspaper comment sections.

Politicians make it worse. Blaming the messenger has become political SOP, particularly in the GOP, from Wabash to Washington. An embattled politician will invariably blame the press. There is some kind of mathematical formula, I swear it. …

Honoring our heroes

In journalism on February 4, 2016 at 4:02 pm

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Last night I clicked through the channels once last time before turning off the television and meandering back to bed. I’m glad I did.

That is how I stumbled on “The Editor and the Dragon” on PBS. It is an hour-long documentary, narrated by Morgan Freeman, about an heroic editor named Horace Carter and his one-man battle with the leader of the local Ku Klux Klan in Tabor City, N.C. It’s compelling video for anyone in our business.

Carter was a young editor in 1950 when local fascists began to be more vocal about their paranoia. The sheet-wearing thugs rolled through town in nighttime parades and eventually just started beating people who didn’t conform to their warped reading of the Bible. The re-establishment of the klan in that period is an ominous reminder of what can happen when we allow fear of “the other” to become a convenient scapegoat for challenges borne by a changing society. It will sound familiar to anyone living in 2016 America.

Carter – publisher of a small weekly in rural North Carolina – won a Pulitzer Prize that year for a collection of his fearless editorials challenging the klan. His words, some read in the documentary, are as moving today as they were 65 years earlier. (By the way, there were heroes like this our company’s past as well.)

It’s easy to say we would all be as brave as Horace Carter. But 1950 was an entirely different time in rural America. As someone says in the documentary, it wasn’t just the threat of physical violence but also the social stigma good white people faced for standing up for their black neighbors. …

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