Archive

Daily Archives: June 14, 2012

"Zoe Mitchell"

The woman on the right said she was USC student Zoe Mitchell and was interested in the plight of Walmart warehouse workers. Now we find out that “Ms. Mitchell” is actually Stephanie Harnett, a PR woman who was spying on a pro-labor group.

“Even within the PR industry it is considered horribly unethical and scandalous to pose as a reporter in order to spy for a client,” writes Gawker’s Hamilton Nolan, a former PR Week reporter. “It is not ‘fair play,’ even in the cutthroat world of Wal-Mart PR.”

It turns out that Walmart agrees with Nolan. The company tells him: “These actions were unacceptable, misleading and wrong. Our culture of integrity is a constant at Walmart and by not properly identifying herself, this individual’s behavior was contrary to our values and the way we do business.”

* Wal-Mart PR firm has flack pose as reporter to spy on pro-labor group (Gawker)
* Walmart’s cloak and dagger fiasco (The Frying Pan)
* Here’s what Harnett wrote when she was working for Huffington Post (Huffington Post)

After posting Boston Globe editor Marty Baron’s tweet and his paper’s story about Mitt Romney’s people kicking reporters out of a Q-and-A session at the Newseum, I told media relations manager Jonathan Thompson that his Newseum looks bad when journalists are treated shabbily there.

I suggested to Thompson that the Newseum put a clause in its room-rental contracts requiring journalists be respected in the House of Journalism — for example, not be marched out of a room when it’s time for politicians to face questions.

Here’s Thompson’s response:

Hi Jim, The Newseum’s two-level conference center and other rental spaces in the building host many private functions. When a private group rents conference or event space at the Newseum, they control the event content and guest list. Private rental events here are no different from private rentals at other institutions. Revenues from event rentals help support the Newseum’s mission, which is to educate the public about the importance of a free press and the First Amendment. Public events sponsored by the Newseum are always open to the news media. Best, Jonathan

DAN KENNEDY WRITES ON MY FACEBOOK WALL:

“How difficult would it have been to go with this instead?

“Hi Jim, The Newseum’s two-level conference center and other rental spaces in the building host many private functions. This is the first time something like this has ever come up. We’re looking into it to make sure it doesn’t happen again. Your suggestion of a contract clause respecting reporters’ right of access is a good one, and it’s something we’re going to discuss. Revenues from event rentals help support the Newseum’s mission, which is to educate the public about the importance of a free press and the First Amendment. So I agree it makes us look like hypocrites to allow anyone to ban the press from an event in our building. Best, Jonathan”

* Reporters kicked out of Romney Q-and-A at Newseum (JimRomenesko.com)

Tryon tells Romenesko readers via email: “I’m told the findings could happen next week.”

* Earlier: Colorado Spring Gazette journalist refuses to remove Facebook post about paper’s sale (JimRomenesko.com)
* “I’m not trying to create a shit-storm — I promise you that is not the case” (csindy.com)
* Journal Register employee rules for using social media (John Paton)


A story
in today’s New York Times notes that Texas politician Jerry Patterson was once quoted in the Houston Chronicle “using a PG-rated expletive” in reference to a state lawmaker.

The story doesn’t mention the expletive, and Fast Company senior editor Jason Feifer has a problem with that. He tells Romenesko readers:

Using a PG-rated expletive? The Times is acknowledging that these words aren’t that bad, and yet it still won’t quote them? What, you might wonder, was this not-very-bad-but-still-unprintable language?

The story in question is here. And the expletive in question is apparently “screw you.”

Screw you! That’s pretty common stuff. Pedestrian. Every second grader in America knows it. In fact, a Times archive search reveals many past usages of quoting someone saying “screw you.”

Feifer points out that the Times has used “screw you” in many stories, including this magazine piece, “Can You Call a 9-Year-Old a Psychopath?”; and this story on New York Daily News editor Colin Myler.

“I am a passionate proponent of printed profanity — not excessive and not simply for the sake of tastelessness,” writes Feifer, “but where appropriate, because if someone speaks with strength and conviction and uses a strong word (which is what happens in the real world, the one the press is supposed to be holding a mirror up to) then that word needs to be repeated, letter for letter, in truth, in trust, without fear, like everything else we report.

“I am proud that, when I was an editor at Men’s Health, I ushered in the magazine’s first usage of the word “motherfucker.” (It was in an essay I commissioned by Yann Martel.) And at every publication I’ve ever worked at – including where I currently at, as a senior editor at Fast Company – I push for it.”

UPDATE: Times national editor Sam Sifton sends this email:

Jason wins; he guessed correctly [that "screw you" was the expletive]. The reason we shy away from the PG “screw you” is because it is a clear stand-in for an R-rated phrase. Of course, we might have dropped the reference to Patterson’s quote altogether. But we thought it was worth mentioning as a way to show how colorful he can be.

Sam Sifton

A search of our archives is anyway not at all a surefire way to “prove” that we are either prudish or inconsistent. If we printed an “unprintable” phrase because no one said not to, that doesn’t mean we should have printed it in the first place. Reporters use clip files all the time to try to prove that, “We did it once so we can do it in my case.” Editors are forever explaining that archives are not precedent. They are sometimes our mistakes, written in stone. We have a million guidelines on usage around here. Some have been updated for the way language has evolved and some remain in place, perhaps as a bulwark against too much evolution in a family paper with a general circulation. If the penalty for that is a letter of protest from Jason Feifer, that’s okay by me. It beats hearing from my mom, which if we’d gone the other way
would have happened for sure.

* Candidate Jerry Patterson kicks a spur into Texas politics (New York Times)

Jim Amoss

Times-Picayune editor Jim Amoss tells readers who are begging the paper to keep delivering a daily print edition why that’s not possible:

We can’t sustain the old business model in the face of irreversible print ad and readership trends. The demand for digital news content will continue to rise. And news organizations that do not position themselves to serve their digital audience risk a slow, irrelevant death.

* The message for our organization is clear: adapt, or fade away (nola.com)
* Watch Amoss and David Carr discuss the paper’s cuts on “PBS NewsHour” (pbs.org)
* Mayor: You look like a minor league city when the paper comes out three days a week (NPR)
*
NOLA.com trumpets award for prison series one day after firing people who worked on it (Gambit)

“Game of Thrones” producers say using George W. Bush’s decapitated head was “not a political statement. It’s just, we had to use what heads we had around.”

We use a lot of prosthetic body parts on the show: heads, arms, etc. We can’t afford to have these all made from scratch, especially in scenes where we need a lot of them, so we rent them in bulk. After the scene was already shot, someone pointed out that one of the heads looked like George W. Bush.

* George W. Bush’s decapitated head appeared on “Game of Thrones” (io9.com)