OLD Media Moves

Covering your own company

February 15, 2007

LA Weekly’s Luke Thompson has a story Thursday about what it’s like to be Jim Rainey of the Los Angeles Times, who has been assigned the job of covering the paper’s parent company and its discussions to sell itself or remain a separate business.

Thompson wrote, “Rainey defends his frequent use of anonymous quotes from sources inside the paper, arguing that under Times policy, names kept from the public are passed on to an editor in the business section, where he normally appears: ‘At least one editor has to know who you’re talking about and why they have to be anonymous.’

“If not for his heavy reliance on off-record Times insiders, he says, he’d barely have a story because, in such a major business deal, on-the-record comment is generally offered only at the beginning and end of the process. ‘We would have had, I think, at most two stories, one saying that the company’s being, in effect, put up for sale,’ says Rainey, ‘and then we would have had another story saying that they’re extending the period for the sale. And once or twice other than that, there may have been a one-paragraph statement put out.’

David Ehrenstein, a journalist and media critic who has written for the Weekly and the Times, is a very public critic of the media’s extensive use of anonymous sources — making him unusual among journalists. Ehrenstein isn’t assuaged by Rainey’s notion that an editor’s preapproval of an unnamed source prevents spin or protects a reporter from being outwitted by those out to manipulate him.”

Read more here.

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