Reuters Blogger Questions Reuters Editorial Actions: Transparency In Action

from the does-this-make-reuters-more-trustworthy-or-less? dept

Well, here's an interesting one. There were reports last week claiming that Reuters had spiked a story about hedge fund big shot Steven Cohen after Cohen complained to Reuters management. While Reuters has since strongly denied the charge, it is interesting to note (as sent in by reader JJ) that at least one Reuters blogger complained quite vocally about this decision. The full blog post, written on Reuter's Hedge World blog is well worth reading. Here's a brief snippet:
As a news organization, all we have connecting us to our audience is our credibility. When we make mistakes, when we miss the point, when we fail to publish in a timely manner--each of these creates a little crack in that credibility. Once enough cracks form over time, the credibility is eroded and ultimately broken apart. At that point it doesn't matter how many orange dots you have swirling around your TV commercial or how intelligent you claim your information is. Once that bond is broken you're screwed.

Because Reuters is my company, there's a big part of me that hopes this incident has been blown out of proportion; that the blogs don't have the whole story. I fear that's not the case, however. The way it looks now is positively scandalous. And as a journalist it makes me almost physically ill to think about it.

I hope someone above me addresses the situation publicly, because lord knows not addressing it ain't working. Right now this incident is relatively contained (although it was the most viewed post on ZeroHedge as of Tuesday). But by next week, this will be all over the place--Romanesko, Drudge. From there it could get real ugly real fast.

And herein, I hope, lies a lesson for whomever killed Matt Goldstein's Steve Cohen story: When you make a decision like that, under those circumstances, the back story will get out. And the fallout from that back story will always, always be worse than the fallout from the story itself.
What strikes me as most interesting about this is that this Reuters post is still up. Reuters did not pull it. It does have an update link at the top to another blog that posted Reuters' denial (not even a Reuters page... which is also noteworthy). While I'm still curious about the decision to spike the story, I have to admit that the fact that a Reuters blogger was allowed to post this blog seriously questioning the integrity of Reuters management (his own bosses) lends at least some more credibility to Reuters itself. This is strengthened by the fact that the blog post has remained up as well.

Compare this to the stories that went around when the Associated Press was announcing its silly and totally useless attempt to DRM the news. At the time, I heard from a few different AP reporters who thought it was a ridiculous idea that made the Associated Press look bad -- but they weren't allowed to say that publicly, and had no real outlet to do so. Reuters and the AP compete pretty directly in the newswire business, and every time I compare them to one another Reuters seems to come out ahead in recognizing where the world is heading. If it is true that Reuters spiked the Cohen story, that would be quite damning and could make me question trusting Reuters, but how it's handled this news so far, and how it's reacted to its own blogger talking about the story is impressive.

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