[SIGCIS-Members] historians and journalists
jcortada at umn.edu
Tue Oct 7 12:25:35 PDT 2014
Nathan is spot on. My experience in talking to several hundred reporters
while I was at IBM about both contemporary and historical issues confirms
his observations. Often a reporter will want to attribute or even more
interesting to them, quote you if you can express something in a pithy,
clever way. It is a trick I was taught many years ago that works.
However, there are often several ways of making the relationships work for
both and we should try to work with journalists as they can create interest
for our field. Encouraging articles that are interviews of you about a
topic is the most straightforward approach. A second is to reach an
understanding that what you are providing is "background" (their word) on a
topic for which you are not looking for attribution. That makes you a "go
to" person when they do future articles and in time you are quoted. That
has worked well for some high profile publications for me. I have
discovered that sources are shared internally within professional media, so
you can expect that a good relationship with one reporter will lead to new
relationships they initiated with others and over time they will want to
quote and cite you if they feel it will enhance the pop for their piece. I
have been told on more than one occasion that reporters do not want to
quote or cite unknowns--that just wastes "column inches". While reporters
have lifted my material on occasion in ways historians would not approve,
that does not mean you will be ignored all of the time.
One thing is for sure, that is a better situation than having a whole book
translated and sold in another country with no royalties to you, let alone
your permission to publish. I had that experience at least twice that I am
On Tue, Oct 7, 2014 at 1:39 PM, Evan Koblentz <evan at snarc.net> wrote:
> Dave-- you're exactly right.
> However some journalists (like me...) are in between. I spent the past 16
> years as a reporter for IT trade magazines, however, I also spent the past
> 10 years (top long!) doing primary research for my computer history book.
> While writing it, my challenge is to make it appeal to lay readers while
> being well-researched enough for the SIGCIS audience.
> I hope to finish the book one of these years and introduce a new topic
> (history of mobile/portable computing) that really hasn't ever been covered
> in book form.
> On Oct 7, 2014, Dave Walden <dave.walden.family at gmail.com> wrote:
>> I think it may be important to distinguish the
>> "journalist"-historians who write books (e.g., Isaacson, Kidder) from
>> the periodical-journalists who write for monthly, weekly, or daily
>> publications. My impression is that the former do years of reading
>> and interviewing of participants (Isaacson in one of the podcasts
>> said he had been collecting material for many years) and the result
>> (while maybe somewhat misguided) is mainly their interpretation (or
>> at least good story); and the latter have a tendency to use less
>> primary sources, interview people who have done research rather than
>> participants, etc., with much more control exerted by editors (as
>> Nathan said). See Kidder's book _Good Prose: The Art of
>> Non-fictioni_ co-authored by his decades-long editor.
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James W. Cortada
Senior Research Fellow
Charles Babbage Institute
University of Minnesota
jcortada at umn.edu
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