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. …

Meanwhile, in some ways, men like Page and Zuckerberg and Cook and Dorsey have more power than their predecessors. They certainly know more about you and me. We have privatized much of our military and financial functions. We should hold these men (and face it, they are almost all men) accountable.

It ain’t easy. I don’t know of any shortcuts. People like Dougherty simply have to work harder to cultivate sources and turn to the very data Google holds.

Clay

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