Wolff Trap

Posted by on Mar 11, 2010 in Michael Wolff, New York Times, PR | One Comment

You gotta love Michael Wolff’s visceral reaction to the recent overture from the PR team for MySpace. He was so inspired, he crafted a Newser post titled:

MySpace Is Back! Really! Totally! Meet Jason and Mike! Wanna Interview Them?

The headline essentially captures Mr. Wolff’s (and others’) intractable notion that MySpace is washed up, and that any effort to shore up a once (and still?)-valuable commodity in the News Corp empire is just spin – even if it isn’t.

No stranger to News Corp, as author of an authorized biography of Mr. Murdoch, Mr. Wolff is known for his caustic, if not knee-jerk assessments of the fate of old media. He’s fond of tweeting nasties about The New York Times, which brings us to his second PR-related post in as many days.

In “Can Better PR Save The Times?”, he echoes fellow media watcher John Koblin’s post earlier this week, but goes a step further by imagining what the head of corp. comms. at a media company might actually do:

“Practically speaking, the job of a media business flack is to protect one media business from other media businesses. In other words, while news businesses are supposed to be getting the story about others, they too, when it’s about them, have an interest in keeping reporters from getting the story.”

Well, not exactly, Michael. The Times, like many digitally aware, consumer-facing organizations, has come a long way in recognizing the value of open communications (versus “keeping reporters from getting the story.”) NYTCO is far from Toyota, but admittedly has some distance to travel before joining the ranks of Dell or Zappos.

The PR department may not have the bandwidth to respond to every NYTPicker, nor should it have to engage its “determined detractors.” Absent from your diss–missal is any recognition of the organization’s push for its rank-and-file to embrace the social spheres. Few can argue with the digital advantage it has over other authoritative news orgs in its peer set, e.g., NPR, HuffPost, WashPost, and Politico, among them.

So, Michael, before you proclaim the demise of this still influential and vital journalistic enterprise, ask Bob Christie to have Nisenholtz, Zimbalist or Frons give you a tour of what’s brewing there on the digital front. It may give you pause before you blindside the “newspaper” you no doubt read every day.