Google Gets Snippy With Reporters

from the talk-to-the-hand! dept

A well known reporter recently told me that Google refuses to grant him interviews with their executive staff because they don’t see any benefit to the company at all. The company is doing great, rolling in money and everyone knows all about them already. So why should they grant interviews? Especially if the reporter might (gasp!) ask tough questions? It seems that, in another case, they’ve taken this policy a step further to punish a news organization that wrote an article they didn’t like. Someone at Slashdot actually read all the way to the bottom of an article about Google’s need for a new chef (this is news?) where the reporter notes: “Google representatives have instituted a policy of not talking with CNET reporters until July 2006 in response to privacy issues raised by a previous story.” That previous story was one discussing how people could find out all sorts of private info about others by doing Google searches. That’s a story that’s been done plenty of times before, but this time the reporter used Google to track down some info (nothing too shocking, honestly) about Google’s own CEO, Eric Schmidt. It’s not clear if the complaint from Google is about finding the info on Schmidt, the general point of the article or (perhaps!) because the reporter got some of the fairly important details wrong (there’s a correction saying the original article implied that Google’s desktop search was sending data about what’s on your desktop back to Google — which is completely false). Even if they’re legitimately pissed at shoddy coverage of their company, it still comes off as a bit arrogant to refuse to talk to anyone at for a year.

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Comments on “Google Gets Snippy With Reporters”

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Matthew Maier (user link) says:

High Tech PR

As you know doubt know, Google’s not the only offender. Companies like Oracle, Siebel and many other high tech companies are notoriously difficult for reporters to work with. From my experience, technology industry PR is some of the most egregiously heavy-handed PR of any industry. I understand the whole concept of staying on message, but when flaks sitting in on an interview do more talking than their executives, that’s a problem. Unfortunately, it’s not one endemic to Google (though I too experienced their tactics, and it can be frustrating).

G says:

Re: High Tech PR

They put a man’s worth (in the billions) and his home address.
Criminals have never been accused of being that smart. Could it be possible that maybe you shouldnt paint a big bullseye on the home of someone worth a lof oy money for any thieves, nutcases and kidnappers?
Sure, they could get the information themselves, but let them. Maybe he has children and doesnt like the idea of a big news source that they had been cooperating with endangering them any more than just being rich already does.

Mike (profile) says:

Re: Get Real

Hmm. It’s not just the fact that they declined to comment. That happens all the time. And no one is saying they don’t have the right to do this.

The issue (and what makes it newsworthy) is the reasons *why* they’ve decided not to talk, and the fact that they’ve apparently put a complete one year ban on talking to reporters at that organization for any reason. It certainly suggests an attitude out of Google that seems a bit more arrogant than it need be.

Sure, reporters can get annoying, but it’s fine to just say no comment. But to say “we won’t talk to you for a year” comes off as being quite obnoxious. Google can get away with it for now, seeing as they don’t need press coverage — but situations change, and burning bridges with the press in that way seems like an odd strategy.

Mousky (user link) says:

Re: Re: Get Real

Obnoxious or not, Google has the right to ignore a specific media organization. Just because you don’t like the reasons Google is giving does not make the issue newsworthy. If the media has the so-called “right to pry” then Google (or any company for that matter) has the “right to ignore” or “right to ban”. Sorry Mike, but you struck out on this one.

Mike (profile) says:

Re: Re: Re: Get Real

Again, I never said they didn’t have the right to do this. Where did I even suggest it?

What I did imply was that this was not a smart move, and I’ll stand by that. It’s the arrogance of the move that makes it newsworthy to us. It also seems newsworthy to many others, if you look around the web today. You don’t have to agree. That’s why you have your own site. ๐Ÿ™‚ But, it’s really up to those of us here at Techdirt to determine what we find newsworthy.

Tim (user link) says:

Re: Re: Re:2 Get Real

Quoth Mike:

> What I did imply was that this was not a smart move, and I’ll stand by that. It’s the arrogance of the move that makes it newsworthy to us.

Yes, the 1-year ban is different from a 1-off “no comment”, indeed. And I wouldn’t have said so much `arrogant’ as suggesting that it could be a patently immature response, unless, as someone else has pointed out, giving a rich person’s address qualifies as a good reason for it.

It’s news-worthy in terms of potentially answering the question `how evil is google?’.

Mousky (user link) says:

Re: Re: Re:3 Get Real

I’m surprised it took this long to bring up the whole “evil and google” thing. Banning interviews for a whole year may be arrogant, but it is not evil. It is most amusing the great lengths people go to find a small slimmer of questionable proof that Google is evil. It is important to note that Google did not ban interviews forever or indefinitely, but for one year. Sounds more like a cooling off period. Rather, than get into a war of words with CNet, they decided to not talk to them. How evil of Google. Again, not newsworthy ๐Ÿ˜‰

Chris Maresca (user link) says:

Re: Re: Re:4 Get Real

Google is turning into another Netscape. Their product may be more viable in the marketplace, but the way they and their employees behave is EXACTLY the same as ‘hot’ companies at the height of the dot-com bubble. Russell Beattie has an interesting take on this here:

The other thing that most people don’t realize is that Google is essential an advertising company. They have placement inventory and they sell it. That sort of position usually doesn’t last, and there are plenty of examples of this around. I used to work for a company called Organic Online, which, in the late ’90s, controlled 60% of online banner ads. Needless to say, they don’t anymore.


Dres says:

My take

I think I’d act pretty much the same way. A lot of reporters can be dicks and don’t deserve interviews, on the other hand others may sing praise about you. If you want to write a story about me and/or my company, and you want to get the info from me, or have an interview, thats a privelege, and sometimes the line is crossed. Many journalists seem to think its “their right” to have everything they need at their fingertips to write a story. But the world doesn’t work that way, you only have the right to write.

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