22 septiembre 2006

En defensa de las filtraciones

El último escándalo de escuchas ilegales de Hewlett Packard ha reabierto el debate sobre la utilidad de las filtraciones a la prensa, único modo de que este tipo de información salga a la luz. David Callaway defiende en su columna de Marketwatch esta extendida práctica periodística:

Huge amounts of money and resources are spent each year teaching executives how to go on CNBC and get maximum exposure while not saying anything about their companies. Consultants and public relations managers make careers out of advising companies how to disseminate -- or leak -- only good news while hiding the bad.

For an example, I look no further than my desk. On it is a note from the people running the Bank of America investment conference in San Francisco this week. Titled "Press Guidelines," the
note lists a half a dozen things that journalists who attend sessions with corporate speakers are prohibited from doing. One of them is ask questions during or after the speech. Another is approach the speaker after the speech. A third is no taping of speeches.

These so-called guidelines are presented as though they are designed to let paying conference
attendees ask the questions. But they are really just another way to prevent executives from having to answer tough questions about any parts of their business they choose not to discuss. Perhaps the thinking is that press questions are just not important.

So it's against this stacked deck that the financial media tries its best each day to get real news out of companies. Think about the past week of news. What were the most interesting stories? The collapse of the Amaranth hedge fund? The continuing H-P debacle? The Ford
restructuring? All of these were leaked in advance. Yes, every single leak had a
motive behind it, which a journalist must think about before publishing.
But in the end, the leaks made it possible for a fuller story to get out, and the shareholders and general
public benefited from that fuller story.

On Thursday, two San Francisco journalists will appear before a federal judge to argue why they shouldn't be sent to jail for keeping their word not to identify the leaker of grand jury documents used to blow the lid off the case of steroids in baseball. Their reports in the San Francisco Chronicle exposed the extent of abuse of steroids in sports and helped improve rules governing their usage.

None of this was possible without leaks and anonymous sources.

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