September 26, 2003

The Inbox of Reporting

Political reporters find themselves increasingly relying on - or taken siege by - email, according to an Editor & Publisher article that reports on how the swarm of Democratic presidential hopefuls are employing the Web and other new media tools.

Skip the breathless quotes from newspaper and academic types - "It has absolutely exploded" or "You have a million different bloggers and people who have a lot of free time to make things up" - and go to the email section, which reports that:

 More and more reporters are Blackberry enabled, so
 Candidates are spamming reporters inboxes with meaningless press releases, but
 Email and the Web can also make reporters' lives easier because
 They can get instant access to archived speech transcripts or
 Fact check candidate remarks or
 Do quick interviews by email.

The upside of being wired is the extended ability by reporters to reach out to sources more quickly and the greater assurance that a candidate (well, his staff) will respond. Email is tough to dodge. Also, email's electronic trail should limit accusations of misquotes or deniability, assuming, of course, any of the spinmeisters actually say anything of significance in an email.

The downside includes further separation between reporters and sources. As I said the other day, an email interview is a poor substitute for one done face to face or even by phone. [ Read: Whose Interview is It? ]. Also, the distraction of following what New York Times reporter Adam Nagourney called the "macho battle of the campaigns to see who can pile on the e-mail" won't improve the focus of political reporters, too many of whom already suffer from a deadline-driven attention deficit disorder.

 Editor & Publisher Web Changes Campaign 2004 ...

Posted by Tim Porter at September 26, 2003 06:02 AM