Tuesday, 11 December 2007

Reporting IHT/Reuters Deal - Conflict of Interest

The International Herald Tribune has made big strides in its coverage of media and technology, which is why it's disappointing to realise that the IHT is certainly not the place to go for coverage of the main media story of the moment - the IHT/Reuters Deal.

The IHT has two in-house journalists of its own (as distinct to NYT correspondents) that cover the media brief - Eric Pfanner and Doreen Carvajal.

But Doreen's piece in the Monday Business Section headlined IHT and Reuters forge business news alliance (Monday, December 10, 2007, page 11 http://www.iht.com/articles/2007/12/10/technology/reuters10-web.php), which is after all the day when the business section leads with Media and Communications, was really very little more than a rehash of the Reuter's and NYT's own press releases.

(As of time of posting the IHT corporate site is yet to post any press release themselves; the NYT have this up http://phx.corporate-ir.net/phoenix.zhtml?c=105317&p=irol-pressArticle&ID=1085931&highlight=).

The quote from Mike Oreskes that Carvajal went with is a direct lift from the NYT press release:

"We are inventing something new and exciting for both our audiences. We are combining the very best of two of the best journalistic organisations on earth to produce a global report on finance, economics and business of the highest calibre. It is difficult to imagine a moment when this matters more. "

Might not it have been possible for Doreen, who no doubt knew of the plans in advance, to have got something from Oreskes that no else could (they do after all work in the same building) but largely her article's approach can be found in any number of places, where journalists have cobbled together NYT and Reuter's Press releases.

Her piece provided NO wider competitive set or marketplace context beyond the IHT, the NYT and Reuters. She couldn't or wouldn't even report what happened to the Bloomberg deal. That's not very valuable.

So, naturally, instead of being indispensable, anyone really interested in this story turned to other MSM, the internet and the blogosphere to find our some more insights.

Carvajal and Pfanner need to be given a free hand to report on this deal as they see fit. But are they free to do so? Probably not.

This is a clear conflict of interest in the business reporting and one that previous IHT editor Mike Getler was always unhappy about, when asked to print stories of various IHT publishing partnerships in his pages. He did so, but begrudgingly I think.

Those days are gone, and as the stakes get higher, and the IHT attempts to position itself as a reliable source for media and communications business news, but finds itself at the centre of the story, something needs to be done.

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