Inside the Times-Dispatch Bunker
Wednesday, July 19, 2006 :::
Style Weekly continues to examine the weird bunker-mentality of the Richmond Times-Dispatch...and offers up a couple of gems along the way.
First comes this piece on the dismantling of the paper's intranet after a posting from reporter mark Holmberg.
And in a touch of irony that will not escape some, the source for last week's expose turns out to be none other than Mark Holmberg -- who was the unnamed "star reporter" in that story.
Jeff Schapiro must have been unavailable for comment.
But even better is the TD's internal "gag order," which makes it difficult, if not impossible, for reporters to speak independently to anyone on the outside without first clearing several hurdles.
Style posts the gag rules here, and they are a truly a product of duck-and-cover thinking. Snip:
When you receive a call from internal or external reporters with questions or requests for information or interviews concerning The Times-Dispatch, indicate that you will get back to them with your comments. Ask for a list of questions in writing.
1) Call the promotion manager at 649-6085. If the promotion manager is unavailable, call the marketing manager at 649-6641. If neither is available, contact Business Manager at 649-6613 or the Executive Editor at 649-6265.
2) Provide detailed information about the nature of the inquiry, including the name of the publication, date of publication, nature of the questions, and anticipated discussion points.
3) We will gather information, formulate a response and a strategy for responding.
4) The information will be approved or revised by the Publisher throughout the process.
5) Questions about news coverage will continue to be handled by the Executive Editor, with the Publisher in the loop. Any requests to interview reporters or editors, or involve journalists on broadcast programs must be cleared by the Executive Editor.
Stunning. Usually, these are the sort of press relations guidelines one would associate either with a corporation teetering on the brink of an accounting scandal, or the dictator of a two-bit kleptocracy...not a daily newspaper.
Style contacted several TD employees who said "...they'll look for other forums to express themselves, shifting internal conversations elsewhere."
I look for the creation of a few anonymous employee blogs very soon.
::: posted by Norman Leahy at 7/19/2006