Opinion

Felix Salmon

How Dealbook lost its HP scoop

By Felix Salmon
October 12, 2010

The NYT’s Dealbook franchise spent a chunk of yesterday in internal discussions on how to use Twitter, which is hopeful. But first they should work on their ability to use the Web.

A nice little scoop fell into Dealbook’s lap yesterday, when Ray Lane, the incoming chairman of Hewlett-Packard, wrote a strongly-worded letter to the NYT in response to Joe Nocera’s column on Saturday. In it, Lane linked to a blog entry by Josh Greenbaum which also took issue with Nocera’s column.

Dealbook, however, didn’t publish the letter, which was clearly intended for publication; nor did it link to the letter elsewhere; nor did it link to Greenbaum’s post. Instead, in an unsigned post, it merely quoted two paragraphs from the letter.

And so it was left to Dealbook’s biggest rival, the WSJ — in the form of its All Things Digital franchise — to publish the letter. AllThingsD’s Kara Swisher obtained a copy of the email, posted it, and ended up outscooping the very publication to whom the letter was addressed.

All of which says to me that Dealbook still has a newspaper mindset, rather than a blog mindset; I guess the editors there felt that their job was to report on the letter, rather than simply publish it. (The FT clearly felt the same way: it reported on the letter, but neither published it nor linked to it.) It’s a bad habit left over from print days, and it shouldn’t happen on any newspaper website, let alone a blog.

Of course, if the letter is newsworthy, then it’s worth writing about. But if you have the letter, and if you’re writing about the letter, then there’s no excuse at all not to print the letter.

It’s worth noting, here, that AllThingsD is deliberately and consciously operated at arm’s length from the WSJ, with its own reporters, its own publishing technology, and its own offices in California. It’s a model the FT has aped with its new FTTilt operation, for good reason. As anybody who has ever worked at a blog inside a print newsroom will tell you, there are constant conflicts and internal fights when that happens, with the bloggers wanting to publish lots of stuff and the newspaper people holding them back for all manner of reasons.

I don’t know whether Dealbook wanted to print the letter and wasn’t allowed to, or whether it simply self-censored. But if it’s serious about becoming “the Politico of finance”, then it’s going to have to be much more aggressive on mini-scoops like this one. Win the lunch hour, people!

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