Dealing with the Press

From: evan <>
Date: Tue Oct 28 01:34:25 2003

Hello all,

Regarding this discussion about dealing with the
press, I feel compelled to reply, because (as some of
you know) I'm a reporter AND a vintage computer

Of course I have to make a disclosure: the opinions
I'm about to convey are solely my own, and when I'm on
this email list, I do not represent my magazine
(eWeek) or its publisher, Ziff-Davis.

And now on with my opinion...

It really saddens me to see so much negativity about
how the press can only get it wrong, look for the bad
news, or generally miss the point. I suppose that
stems from the approach that "the media" includes
everyone from The Wall Street Journal to Fox's
"Entertainment Tonight" in the same boat. The reality
is, as with any group of people or businesses, there
will be a vocal minority who make the good majority
look bad. In fact, local newspapers are still the
heart of American journalism, and most do a superb at
covering their regions and small towns, in a way that
the AP or CNN never will be able to do.

The comments about emphasizing the preservation angle,
about these machines being the 'opposite' of business
computing, and about the growing size of our vintage
computing hobby are all very good ones.

Another very important point to emphasize is the
legacy integration angle. Everyone from the world's
largest businesses to the one-man shops has some old
data or peripheral lying around, which one day they
may have to use. That requires people who can help.
Moreover, when you explain this to a mainstream news
reporter, focus on the angle of history repeating
itself. Above all, make the best possible analogies
that you can come up with. For example whenever I
explain my collection to someone, I focus on how it's
very similar to collectors of antique cars, furniture,
art, stamps, etc., and that it only makes sense that
one generation removed from computers first becoming a
commodity, people would start to collect them.

There were other comments that are really wrong.
"Don't look them straight in the eye" is just silly.
As a reporter, what I appreciate most is interviews
that flow more like conversations. Also, "don't tell
them more than they need to know" is off-base too. If
I'm interviewing someone and the replies involve
little eye contact and terse replies, THEN maybe I'd
think they have something is amiss. Granted,
sometimes too many details can overwhelm people, but
that's a characteristic of over-zealous collectors,
and it's entirely unfair to make the broad assumption
that reporters are an idiotic breed who can't handle
too many facts with accuracy.

Remember, reporters wouldn't bother asking for an
interview if they didn't care about the topic! Good
reporters are experts , not incompetents, about
juggling multiple, fast-incoming facts.

The assertions that reporters "usually get them wrong
anyway" and are "technically unsavvy idiots" is one
really concerns me. Granted, I'm an exception,
because I was a computer nerd BEFORE becoming a
reporter. But again, I want to stress this: it's not
an inherent trait of reporters that facts sometimes
get mangled; think of yourselves when you first
started collecting computers -- all of us asked dumb
questions, were slow to learn, etc.

Something that I'm grateful to Sellam for is his
explanations of how the VCF is to celebrate, not
blindly hang onto, old technology. He's right, and
the can't and won't grow if we (I'm speaking as a
fellow collector now) treat non-hobbyists as clueless
nimwits. I believe that would be the same spark that
caused computers to be so difficult for the public to
use in the first place.

So an absolutely key thing to remember is, the people
who we're preserving vintage computers FOR and the
people who reporters SERVE are THE SAME PEOPLE. We
reporters aren't out to 'get' anyone; we just want to
understand and then share with the masses. (Any
reporter who disagrees with that is discredible.)

One final comment: ethical news publications do not
let interviewees "check" stories before they're
printed. As an ethical reporter myself, sometimes
I'll fact-check very technical things and/or
fact-check that I got someone's point of view correct.
 But no self-respecting journalist or publication
would ever allow people to approve or pre-read a
story. Yes, we make mistakes sometimes, as does
everyone. However when someone accepts an interview
they have to trust that the reporter is a professional
at getting facts correct.

I'm sure parts of my above comments are a bit jarbled.
 I won't deny that this email is somewhat reactionary;
after all I see my fellow collectors attacking my
profession. So in summary, if any of you are asked
about your collections by a reporter, please just keep
in mind that we reporters WANT to understand, to get
it right, and to share your opinion with our readers.
Personally I write an average of three to ten stories
per week, and I haven't got time to ask people
questions for which I don't care about the answers.

Assume that a well-reported and well-written story can
HELP you, but remember that reporters are people too.

 - Evan
Received on Tue Oct 28 2003 - 01:34:25 GMT

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