Putting a Face on New Media Journalists

Last Updated Jun 10, 2008 1:24 AM EDT

Bill Clinton has worked hundreds of rope lines, shaking hands and making small talk with thousands of people. So he probably never gave a second thought to what he would say to the nice lady at a recent event who made a comment about the unflattering Vanity Fair article about him.

That, as they say, was his first mistake.

Turns out that nice lady was Mayhill Fowler, a volunteer blogger at Huffington Post, who was holding a digital recorder in one hand while she held Clinton's hand with the other. Clinton, forgetting for a moment that new media is everywhere, went on a mini-rant about the Vanity Fair article and its author. Soon after, Fowler posted his comments on Huffington. [This is the same volunteer blogger, by the way, who brought her digital recorder along to an Obama event and captured his comments about disgruntled citizens turning to religion and guns.]

I can't believe politicians still don't get it -- that we live in a digital age when everyone -- or should I say, anyone -- can be toting a digital camera or recorder and can upload to the web digital information in a matter of minutes. They aren't wearing a snap-brim hat with the word "Press" stuck in it anymore. Didn't control of the Senate change hands in 2006 because George Allen was caught on Youtube making a racial slur?

There's now a fresh debate again, about whether non-traditional journalists should have to identify themselves if they intend to publish. In a simple and ideal world, sure. But we are so far from living in an ideal world that debating this point is a waste of breath.

Instead, spokespeople and anyone who thinks they may be the subject of a news story, need to remember a few things:

  • Anyone can post content to the web
  • Press credentials aren't necessary
  • People can legitimately be wearing different hats (competitor, job-seeker, co-worker) and also be bloggers
  • The only way to minimize the risk of something like this happening is to think through your talking points in advance and stick to them, whether you are talking to the nice lady on the rope line or the grizzled veteran journalist from the New York Times.
  • Jon Greer

    Jon Greer has been analyzing media and PR for more than 25 years. He's been a journalist and a PR executive, and has been a featured speaker for many years at the Bulldog Reporter Media Relations Summit, and served as Bulldog's Editorial Director for their PR University series of weekly how-to audio conferences.

    Jon provides PR services including media relations and freelance writing to clients including start-ups, law firms, corporations, investment banks and venture capital firms. In addition, Jon provides spokesperson training. Learn more about Jon's training programs at The Media Bridge.