Access journalism is poison
Fri, Dec 14, 2012 at 10:03 AM by Dave Winer.
  • A picture named hippieVan.gifFelix Salmon is a smart guy, a very good writer, so I recommend reading this piece about what he calls "access journalism."
  • He's responding to Margaret Sullivan's piece in the NYT about the Dealbook conference that was a huge demo of access journalism. I didn't go to the conference (wasn't invited) and neither did Salmon. But we've both been to conferences like it. And while Salmon is a journalist who believes in access, I am a source and subject of journalism who despises it.
  • In an earlier life, as a Silicon Valley entrepreneur, I was good at the access game. I traded ideas and news with reporters, and in return they wrote nice things about me and my product. I'm sure many of them actually liked our products, but the reason they looked at them, or even heard of them, was this exchange of favors.
  • When you don't do this, they pretty much ignore you, or worse. I've had a fair number of very negative jobs done on me by the press after I gave up the favor-doing. I had become a blogger, had decided to route around the mess instead of trying to deal with it. I had good reasons for giving up, because when I tried to do something that was so ambitious that it tweaked my platform vendor, Apple, the press turned on me. All of a sudden my product didn't exist, I didn't exist. Crushed by the Great Company who in reality had shipped a vastly inferior product. Didn't matter. So we had to invent a different way to market. It's harder to go direct, but it's honest, and more satisfying. The people who control access to users through the press play a dirty nasty game. And many of them have business cards that say they're journalists.
  • Now, there's absolutely nothing wrong with having conferences like the Dealbook conference. But there's also nothing wrong with saying the truth about it, that the system it exposes yields inbred journalism. People who are close friends with the people they cover aren't really covering them. If that's all there is, then we aren't getting news. And that leads to huge problems. Open technologies are ignored because there's no marketing budget for them. Housing markets are turned into gambling casinos by people who already have more money than they could ever spend. Ordinary middle class people are turned out of their own homes. There are real consequences to this system. And global problems going unaddressed because the reporter didn't want to piss off some guy they use as a source.
  • We need dozens of people working at the Times doing what Margaret Sullivan does. I think Andrew Ross Sorkin needs to feel the heat, he needs to feel pressure to stab his friends in the back when they do something awful, and we need to get Felix Salmon to use his intellect to expose their mediocrity, not defend their parties.
  • Sullivan's piece marked a beginning, perhaps. I hope.