Are Press Conferences still the way to go? - mrtopf.demrtopf.de

Are Press Conferences still the way to go?

In diesem Artikel denke ich ein bisschen über den Sinn und Unsinn von Pressekonferenzen nach, vor allem im Hinblick auf die heutigen Möglichkeiten, die Datenautobahnen so bieten.

People following me on Twitter might have noticed my recent thinkings about this traditional entity called „Press Conference“ and in fact it is an interesting thing to think about.

My thinking of Press Conferences is somehow twofold. First of all for me they represent some relict from ancient mass media only times. Back then when companies had world wide customers but only limited tools to interact with them it was a problem to reach the mass if you wanted to get the word out about something new. Luckily newspapers, TV and other means of reaching a lot of people emerged and they indeed reach quite a lot people. Now it is logical to use these institutions to spread the word and thus press conferences have been invented. A small group of journalists gets the scoop and hopefully will distribute it through their mass media channels.

Of course this sort of communication is only one way, from the company, filtered through press to the (potential) client. Thus it’s sort of the old way to do communication just because it wasn’t differently possible back then.

On the other hand a press conference is maybe as close to a conversation as you can get (if we take the Cluetrain Manifesto here where it says „Markets are conversations“). Of course this conversation is sort of limited to a small group and probably not very personal. But it’s at least a small form of a two-way conversation.

Now we live in different times and as you can read in the Cluetrain Manifesto and other publications, the world has changed and we have the internet now (esp. the web, version 2.312352 public alpha). With the web and today’s bandwidth (unfortunately not everywhere but still) it’s easier than ever to reach a lot of people directly. Mass media for doing that is not that much needed anymore and that is why I am wondering if press conferences might not be completely different in the future.

Imagine that everyone of them gets broadcasted, that ordinary people and even bloggers ( ;-) ) can ask questions, if it maybe takes place in Second Life as it already happened and so on. Wouldn’t this make more sense?

There is even some problem with having the press as a filter due to many reasons:

  • The journalist in question could just not be competent (be it a bad journalist in general or just not his or her topic)
  • Newspapers and TV features only have limited space or time so you only can summarize. In News programs it migth even be just 5 sentences.
  • Journalists might not be that well paid and might be unmotivated
  • Journalists might have time constraints as they have too much on their plate.
  • Journalists need to make sure the newspaper/TV program sells and thus might be more up for catchy stories or headlines

All of this might also be true for bloggers of course, esp. those earning a living with it (and I really wouldn’t differ too much between those two groups anyway although some individuals from these groups seem very eager to discuss this over and over again in very generalized terms).

So all of that might make up for a bad filter and information might get lost. Thus it might make even more sense to open these events up to the general public.

How I came to think about this?

Yesterday I was attending the office hour of Robin Harper/Linden in Second Life and there was talk about a press conference conducted by Linden Lab in Second Life supposedly for the in-world Second Life press. I wasn’t there but what I heard was the following:

It is supposed to be a regular event probably in different time zones

  • There is a list of invited in-world press (no sign on how to get on it and it wasn’t too clear what the requirements are for it but somebody suggested that probably any blogger who reports regularly about SL can ask for an invite and probably Catherine Linden is the one to ask).
  • The event is done via Voice Chat
  • It is done in the form of a presentation (this time it was about the new search functionality) and a Q&A
  • For the first meeting there have been about 7 reporters.
  • No transcript is available due to voice and also no recording but this is planned for next time.
  • The idea is to use the SL press as multiplicators to reach more residents

So the outcome of this is not too well but as it’s the first one that’s probably ok. Unfortunately I did not hear that much about the press conference and wouldn’t have attended that meeting I still wouldn’t know.

My idea here was that this could even be streamed live inside SL, maybe as they do it at the Metanomics events where SLCN.tv is filming and broadcasting it and you can watch this at many places all over SL. There is also a group backchannel chat available and moderated questions get asked. I attended some of these and I think that’s quite a good solution given the sim limitations you have in Second Life.

But there seems to be some hesitation from Linden Lab to do that as this seemed more like a townhall meeting. These have been conducted for quite some time but dropped for now as it wasn’t possible to reach that many residents.

Now all in all I don’t see a difference between a townhall and a (modern) press conference, you can manage it the same way as at monday’s press conference but with more people (double virtually attending). You can still limit the questions and by not having everybody on one sim you can even handle the „chat noise“.

With this approach you have solved many problems:

  • Information is first hand and not filtered by somebody
  • Press can still write about it as not everybody will attend these
  • You only need one type of event and can better manage your time

So if you want to reach the most people possible IMHO you should open it up as much as possible.

Update: Thanks to Mal Burns for telling me about the MP3 recording Bernhard Drax (one of the reporters attending) made: mp3 link

[audio:http://www.bernharddrax.com/sl/conference.mp3]

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5 Kommentare » Schreibe einen Kommentar

  1. Tao, you're insufferable, and it seems you are merely having a tantrum. I published this Linden email you had to write to for an invitation, and the announcement of this press conference, on my blog, which is covered on your planet.worldofsl.com

    While I can't expect you to read it every minute, it's not that big of deal. If you missed this one, come to the next one. My God, you were at Catherine Linden's office hour, and always are like a regular fanboy, and you heard her discuss this very concept of holding the press conference, all you had to do was to contact her if you somehow missed an email.

    Press conferences aren't "ancient" — they continue all over the world, constantly, by all kinds of governments and non-profit groups and individuals, and it's one way of communicating, and a useful one. Not everybody lives mediated on the Internet typing into the ether. There isn't a "filter" — reporters who are professional have the trust of their editors, they report on it, readers trust it. If they want to see some raw feed without context, they can do that, but the idea that streaming feed is a replacement for live interaction and follow-up questions is absurd. The idea that "streaming" and "internet" = authenticity and truth is just plain destructive — they don't.

    You really sound infantile when you imagine that you are so far in the future that you can just dump every single convention or institution that people have developed over the centuries to manage communications.

    The idea that companies or individuals shouldn't hold press conferences because "journalists are lazy and might not be motivated or paid enough" just beats all. Then…I'll guess they'll miss out? If that's how they are, why would anyone bother to give them an exclusive interview then?!

    Metanomics is a very filtered and controlled event. It's absolutely preposterous to counterpose this to a Linden press conference as if it is some free and authentic people's media and the Linden event is all hype. Baloney. Robert Bloomfield sits there large as life and twice as natural as the filter, duh, completely blocking questions, misunderstanding or spinning them, and pushing his own agenda. As do other speakers there. To describe these events as "unmediated" is utterly retarded, as all the questions that the speakers at these things get are very much controlled and mediated, more than any press conference with a government I've ever seen.

    That's just it — under the pretense and fiction of having streaming this and streaming that, you are forgetting who sits in the streams and streams what they wish through their filter in the first place. My God, that should be obvious.

    Trying to get a group of Lindens on one topic for one journalist is a near impossibility — this is a way for them to reach more people with more intensive questions and have interactivity and follow-up that proves impossible at the office hours. If it proves unsatisfactory for them or the public at large, they'll find some other method. It's really very hard work, and I don't see that your whining is relevant, really.

    There's a HUGE difference between a town hall and a press conference. The townhall has 160 people in it, with all kinds of levels of understanding and briefing and diverse concerns, some of whom carry signs, call out things, fight to get on the speakers' list, get bounced by Lindens, etc. etc. The Lindens deliver set pieces and answer questions submitted even in advance or cleared through a moderator. They are…town halls. Everyone knows the difference between that genre and press conferences. They aren't particularly successful in SL precisely because malicious griefers often find ways to harass the speaker or questioners in ways that don't always show up as actionable. The transcripts show this in spades.

    A press conference is just a tighter event at one level, and also has more freedom for multiple follow-ups, if the speaker and the reporter are briefed.

    Seriously, your notion that SLCN is "first hand" is utterly ridiculous. It's a pre-packaged preplanned thing with a moderator who is a heavy filter over the event.

    I think the Lindens are unlikely to do lots of town halls. They are intensive work and require lots of staffing and management, far more than the press conference.

  2. Press conferences are a different means of communication. Not a lot gets said in an office hour with all the cross talking, which is fine, an office hour is a discussion.

    However many people post transcripts from office hours, so people spread news from those. A press conference appears to be a chance to engage with a Q&A session with the Lindens and then people post the information.

    My concerns are that the "press" won't act responsibly but the first one apparently went quite well, although attendance was low.

    I'd like LL to post information from these press conferences, they seem a little reluctant to do so but we'll see what happens.

    A town hall type meeting, well I attended the VAT one and there were too many people, not enough questions and not enough time for follow up questions due to the large number of people who attended.

  3. Some clarifications:

    – I did not actually complain that I wasn't invited. And while you posted that information I think the right place for it would have been the LL blog.

    – I did not propose to replace the Q&A by a live stream but just to use a live stream additionally so that more people can listen to the raw information. If SLCN does that (or any other TV program) then I don't see where they should filter

    – As for journalists being pros etc. I wouldn't generalize that. I as a reader don't trust them when it comes to topics like blogging or SL or maybe even web tech in general. When you look into german newspapers and their coverage of SL then you know what I mean (and probably not different for other countries). The problem here maybe is actually that readers trust their newspapers. Again, I am not saying that every journalist is like that.

    – I don't want to judge here how good or bad Robert Bloomfield as a filter is but the filter problem also arises with the press being the filter. I might not even be able to give them questions in advance. And it's not about good or bad journalists here it's maybe more about asking about specific topics I personally might be interested in.

    So again: I think it could be a good thing to also stream these event to the general SL public. It will reach more people and the sim could also still be closed to press only so no griefing should take place. You would even have the chance to contact the press representative of your choice and ask your question that way.

    All in all it would just add a little bit more work but would reach far more people IMHO (esp. if you advertise it more).

    So much for SL.

    In general I know of course that I cannot tell people to drop all press conferences but this post was also merely meant as raising some discussion. Of course there are structures there which will stay for sometime. But to open it up just a little bit would be a win for all nevertheless. I know that technology makes this possible only in a small part of our world but why not try at least there?

  4. I totally agree with you about your general reflections on press conferences. These conferences should not be held anymore as if the web didn't exist.

  5. Christian,

    Posting something on my blog isn’t any substitute for the Lindens posting this notice on their blog, of course, but I’m pointing out that this information was available. Tao Takashi was present inworld at the meeting in which this was discussed and the information that it was coming soon was given, so it seems silly to yammer on about it. Perhaps there are limitations to the ability of the press Lindens to go diving into people’s avatar accounts and try to lift out a usable email to contact them. I imagine that if you want to get on a list, you have to ask, you have to show up.

    Beyond SL, here’s the recipe for what’s often really happening with all this new media/social media/indy media stuff:

    o noveau citizens‘ journalists make unchecked claims about evil corporate media with its filtering reporters who represent class/corporate/mainstream interests and supposedly skew the news.

    o taking advantage of lower-cost media tools and the Web and new social media opportunities, they print their version of the story, which is supposedly „free and unadulterated“. Of course, immediately anyone with any news judgement can see that they introduce even more sectarianism and tendentiousness than any supposed corporate hack, but are even further resistant to scrutiny and criticism because they believe they represent free, unadorned media streaming „the truth“.

    o Because they control the very social media they use, either through technical expertise or through merely permissions on a blog, website, etc., they can remove, censor, or skew any criticism of them sometimes even more than the regular mainstream media

    o They possess a misplaced trust in the ability of logging to „keep to the truth“. At extremes of social media mavens you find Jason Caliandris, who refused to speak on the phone to a regular reporter because he didn’t trust that the reporter could report the story accurately, and insisted on having a typed, chatlogged interview over email or IMs — or nothing.

    o But…No magic accrues to raw, streamed media as „the truth“. In fact, raw feed without context and interpretation that prevents that feed from being skewed by false readings is very vulnerable to manipulation. Often, the typed text of a chatlogged meeting is tremendously misleading without some kind of explanation. Look at one of my popular blog posts, „Anatomy of a Fan Boy“ with its analysis text printed next to the speech text to get an idea of how different communities of interest will signal and mediate relationships with the Lindens and their power in SL in different ways (http://secondthoughts.typepad.com/second_thoughts/2007/09/anatomy-of-fanb.html)

    Ditto a raw video feed. The belief that the „tools of media“ can render this supposedly 100 percent accurate rendering of „the truth as it is“ is a touching religious belief, but any number of examples can be cited to show how skewed it can be. Example from a town hall meeting in SL: someone in room chat mentions something about Prokofy, my question about land comes from the moderator in the next line in the text, Philip Linden says „Comic relief,“ in the next line as if explaining, in answer to my previously-submitted question, that he did something in SL for „comic relief“ and/or I’m the comic relief. But in fact, Philip was answering some other backchat that he heard in that particular sim.

    o I was there at this first LL press conference, and did a very long exegesis on some of the search issues (http://secondthoughts.typepad.com/second_thoughts/2007/11/press-conferenc.html), and also listened to this partial tape here (it’s missing most of the Q&A it seems to me) and very different news and views come out of the same „raw feed“ precisely because of context and previous interactions.

    o Sure, the Lindens can put up a feed of the press conference, just like the State Department puts up both a daily video and transcript of the noon press briefing. This is a little harder to do well in SL than you let on. Of course journalists who cover the US government would want to be physically persent at that briefing not only to be able to get their questions in, but to a) interpret based on tone/facial expressions/OTR comments/backchat they may be able to pick up b) their context and knowledge from past coverage of the US government. You wouldn’t say that the streamed or logged daily State briefing is „the streamed truth,“ it would merely be a useful form of event coverage with wich more would have to be done speaking to other sources to do a credible story.

    o Second Lifers have a hugely exaggerated faith in the chatlog as often the only way to get anonymous avatars „on the record“ and „accountable“. They have endless patience for reading sometimes paralyzingly voluminous and hard-to-follow logs in search of „the truth“. They don’t trust their fellow residents to report this black box, with its very polarized communities, faithfully.

    That’s fine, but that doesn’t mean credible reporters shouldn’t tackle this specialized world. It’s actually no different than any other black box with polarized communities and lack of reliable news flow from governments, whether Gaza or Georgia.

    The idea that mainstream reporters „don’t cover SL properly“ is one of those very stubborn insider SL beliefs, but in fact, those real-life reporters are coming up to SL and rendering their pretty objective take on it completely shorn of all the SL magic and specialness, reporting what they see as what their readers need to know and want to know — and they aren’t wrong about that. Each time some reporter comes into the Welcome Area and gets winged by a flying phallus and reports with a snigger or disgust, he’s in fact telling the truth of the SL experience for many newbies who leave. Those who stay hurry to put up a kind of propagandistic barrage, like, „But SL is used to help cancer patients“ or „SL is used to teach science“ or „SL has this beautiful artistic build“. They take their own precious and specialized experience they’ve themselves helped to manufacture as „the truth of SL“ without realizing the truth of SL is basically that only one in ten people remain; that means there’s another truth for 90 percent of the people who touch SL. That’s the bit that the RL press will tend to cover.

    You can rant and rave that they didn’t appreciate the beauty of SL nature, but it’s like ranting and raving that they didn’t see the olive trees and comment on the cuisine after their visit to the West Bank; there’s a traditional main story to be covered, and they did their job, and covered it.

    I find the tech press in general in the US anyway to be absolutely, horrifically, appalling as far as their sycophantic and uncritical coverage of any new technical development (or its converse, malicious and vicious coverage of competitors, because they all seem to be even cynically bought and paid for). I would hardly set them up as a gold standard. There are exceptions, of course, like Mitch Wagner who has kept an engaged but critical coverage of SL based on considerable time spent trying to work the beat inworld. Most of the time, tech coverage suffers from being claustrophobically covered with a veneer of hype about technology itself as some kind of huge boon to humanity that they get to control.

    I have no idea where you get your idea that evil press conferencers are hogging and filtering the news and some bold band of brave social mediators — which is exactly what we need to call them! — are stripping away filters. They aren’t, and nobody is about to drop press conferences soon as a mode.

    Press conferences should be abolished due to the web? Huh? I’ve either attended or run gadzillion press conferences in my life, and I can only say this about them: there are less of them precisely because of the 24/7 news cycle, and the impossibility to get busy reporters to physically attend some event at 11:00 am in the real world (or SL for that matter). Lazy journalists try to cut and paste everything from the net or ask questions in email, but if they are more professional, they will make phone calls and also try to show up at real-world events, too.

    In Russia, despite what many see as its „backwardness“ or the real censorship of the media, there has been an interesting evolution away from those static very propagandistic Kremlin press conferences about the wheat harvest to more sophisticated forms of field coverage. And there is also a kind of new phenomenon called the „presentatsiya,“ which is something like a cross between a press conference, a round-table, or an art happening, depending on who is running it. The presentatsiya could be a new book roll-out, commentary by human rights activists about a new report on Chechnya, a new product — something to present. There is more interactivity, in that all the people in the room may begin to debate something intensively which is more in the Russian spirit than Roberts Rules of Order. That the story of Russia still gets out despite intense Kremlin filtration is in part due to the willingness of people not only to blog or email but engage in these exercises to meet and try to communicate and discuss something in real time in real life.

    At the UN, the press conference at UNCA remains a very big staple of how news comes out, but there is also the stakeout, i.e. where the reporters lie in wait for ambassadors emerging from the Security Council, and then pepper them with questions which they try to get answers to, or at least film as the official is saying „no comment“ to see his expression, that sort of thing. They might supplement this with a stand-up in front of the building in which they comment on the news themselves, or add to it OTR comments they’ve gleaned in the cafe.

    The idea that media is all about ‚you only need one kind of event‘ and ‚you can better manage your time‘ is unacceptable to me. Covering a story takes engagement with many kinds of media presentations. Going to the OTR briefings all the time at the UN, I see that often that is merely a pre-cooked but not yet digested version of what some official will eventually say two weeks later, but with spin in some direction that is get to be vectored. You couldn’t cover the story without both OTR, independent analysis, official statements, etc. etc. To say there should be „one kind of event“ to cover the Middle East would be folly.

    The rise of „community journalism“ and „civic journalists“ or „citizen journalists“ conjures up these images of all these brave, civic-minded individuals blogging and podcasting about, oh, Scooter Libby and Valerie Plame. But whatever their merits — and they sometimes are the ones to break the truth of a story — they have their biases and tendentiousness that are simply less on display and face less accountability, covered up by this ostensibly altruistic image.

    Communities are very biased things, and the communities that spring up around blogging or podcasting or whatever can be hothouses of tendentiousness. The idea that there is some magic of legitimacy or authenticity or truth conferred on them merely because of their directly-mediated opionated status via the Internet strikes me as naive if not infantile.

    A good journalist has to be willing to sift through all this and sort out the different interest agendas. He also has to be willing to see when someone who might appear to be a skewed interest with an agenda might in fact have the real story. I think Eric Reuters on the SL bureau has been a good example of a reporter attempting to do this although for me, Reuters isn’t the last word on SL and I would look at other sources.

    The single biggest problem of the SL-related media is that they fail to pick up the phone or IM a Linden or other newsmaker and simply ask them the story — at least in their version. They are lazy, fearful, or uncritical or all of the above. The Lindens, of course, don’t give you much purchase-hold now these days as they answer emails less and less, palm reporters off on their PR flaks, and have less availability.

    On the other hand, reporters now have windfalls of Linden time and engagement if they bother to do their homework that none of us had in 2004-2005 when the Lindens only appeared as game-gods descending from Olympus to their townhalls, or sporadically manifested as former residents with agendas now thinly disguised as Lindens responding on Live Help.

    The Office Hours and specialized meetings like the Open Architecture group are actually a mine of info if you can sit through the fanboyz nonsense.

    In sum, what I see as problematic with the new media mavens which I definitely call „new mediators“ because they do in fact mediate a worldview in their media work is the following:

    o they mistake knowledge of, and control of, new media tools, as instant authenticity

    o they often have an extremist viewpoint that they themselves fail to acknowledge as such, believing the mainstream to be backward; they suffer from revolutionary zeal and excess

    o therefore they refuse to realize the bias that is even more deeply the case, and more deeply buried under their veneer of authenticity

    o they often have no checks or balances, because they can Wikify or blog something to destroy another’s reputation with little recourse

    o they have no editorial judgement because they have no experience deliberating with other reasonable minds in a daily editorial meeting about how to understand and deliver the news — they think just showing up with an i-Phone confers instant expert status on them

    o they have no accountability to a broader public because they tend to gather around them likeminded fanboyz and zealously loyal comrades and never experience the need to explain themselves to some other community or power.

    If you peel away all the „wow, it’s new media, how cool!“ stuff around new media, you see what you in fact have recooked again, in old media terms: a million college newspapers and ethnic/special interest community publications and advertising shoppers and tabloids. You don’t have solid newspapers of record that cover stories „without fear or favour“.

    In breaking down and „disrupting“ old media, most of the time, all you’ve done is…broken down and disrupted old media. You’ve returned it to an earlier stage, when the college newspaper, the special-interest bulletin, the tendentious rag, the corporate fluff pieces, dominated small towns because they had no budgets or staff or access to higher levels of media intake — no Internet! That’s not necessarily progress, and linking up a million of such special takes doesn’t net you an aggregate of meta-objectivity.