Wednesday, June 28, 2006

Journalism, or press release 2 - the reply

10 days ago, I wrote a letter to the Washington Post, in response to an article they'd written. (you can read it here) I said I didn't expect it to do much good, nor did I expect a reply. I did, however, get one.

As it states right at the top here, N2N is all about BOTH sides of the argument, so I feel duty-bound to post the reply from Frank Ahrens

Greetings, all:

Allow me to apologize for the mass reply, but this story generated a lot of
discussion, to put it mildly, and I wanted to get back to everyone who
wrote, even those who accused me of not knowing my asshole from my elbow
(which, by the way, is one of my favorite phrases).

The story was meant to shine a light on the U.S. government's increasing
involvement with U.S. entertainment industries and their joint efforts to
influence foreign governments to strengthen copyright laws--to the
satisfaction of U.S. companies--and crack down on what the U.S. government
and industries see as piracy.

It was not an endorsement or condemnation of the practice. It was not meant
to debate copyright law and whether rightsholders have their rights for too
long. That's a fine debate that reasonable people of both sides can
disagree on and perhaps a story for another day.

Early in the story, I incorrectly referred to as a
file-sharing sight. That was my oversight on final edit--I of course
realize it operates like iTunes--and I'm sorry I did not catch it. I
realize that factual errors can undermine a thesis but I hope you will not
devalue the story--which is about the activities of the U.S. government and
entertainment industry--because of this mistake.

As for The Pirate Bay, perhaps the Swedish authorities conducted a
ham-fisted raid and perhaps the dissemination vs. receiving of copyrighted
material debate is ongoing in Sweden. But in characterizing TPB, I relied
on the opinion of the Swedish minister of trade and economic affairs, who
called it illegal, and the opinion of the U.S. Supreme Court, which ruled
last year that the administrators of file-sharing networks may be held
responsible for ciminal activities of their users, which is clearly guiding
the Swedish authorities. As for the BitTorrent argument, saying that the
network does not carry copyrighted works but seeds to where those
copyrighted works reside strikes me as saying it's not illegal if you chop
up the Mona Lisa into 100 pieces and then tell people where those pieces

Finally, the Swedish police believed TPB was illegal enough to raid. If the
Swedish law of last year is overturned, then that's newsworthy to me down
the road.

As for, not only does the RIAA and MPAA but the MPA
(international) and IFPI (international) believe that even though it may
claim it is licensed by Russian authorities, that license and its guiding
authority are shams in the Wild West bazaar of Russian commerce. I tend to

As for the potential losses suffered by the music and movie industries
overseas, those are of course estimates but not without some empirical
evidence. I pressed both bodies on their calculations, which they compute
but surveying the market to find out what percentage of counterfeit
material is being sold and estimating the corresponding market value, i.e.,
what the music and movie companies would have made from those sales if they
were not pirated goods. A report from the Russian government earlier this
year, for instance, estimated that 70 percent of all CDs and DVDs sold in
Russia are counterfeit.

This is a large, growing and complex problem. I am not infallible but make
every attempt to make my stories as factually correct as possible, to get,
as a former colleague once said, "The best available version of the truth."
The ongoing conversation with readers through the Web greatly helps my
reporting and makes it smarter, as there are tons of readers who know more
about most topics than I do.

So I hope to keep up the dialogue and please allow me to encourage everyone
to keep it civil. Just as you say a mistake in one of my stories can cause
you to devalue the entire story, if someone starts off an e-mail to me by
calling me a name, or several, then I'm likely going to skip the rest of
your e-mail, possibly missing valuable information.



Frank Ahrens
Media and entertainment industry reporter
The Washington Post
Phone: 202.334.5158
Fax: 202.496.3815

1 comment:

  1. Dear Mr. Ahrens.

    I'm to lazy now to go thru all your answers and english is not my mother language so it would be to difficult for me to comment at all of them with nice english words

    Just one point so:

    Your argument "But in characterizing TPB, I relied
    on the opinion of the Swedish minister of trade and economic affairs, who
    called it illegal,[...]"
    is either plain stupid or a sign of bad journalism! Choose for yourself!

    When a journalist (and not a lawyer!) using Lawlingowords like "legal" or its counterpart "illegal" i assume he gets the grounding facts for using such words from someone that has something to do with LAW! (famous german advertising campain slogan for that practise "vieleicht haette er jemanden fragen sollen der sich mit sowas auskennt")
    If i were a professional journalist i would not relay on the word of a trademinister but the minister of justice when it comes to law stuff and not tradingstuff!

    Your argument [...]opinion of the U.S. Supreme Court[...] is also stupid if you use it as excuse for your wordchoosing in the article. With all due respect to your US Supreme Court their opinion is nothing you can use as excuse for your bad article. As the owner of TPB has nicely before stated to US lawfirms. US law does not apply to sweden. So if YOU write an article in which you are selling someting as FACT and then later use stupid arguments to defend this article than thats what i would call bad journalism.

    If you now claim your article was intended as "[...] to shine a light on the U.S. government's increasing
    involvement with U.S. entertainment industries and their joint efforts to
    influence foreign governments to strengthen copyright laws--[...]
    " and not as another PR-piece of the copying and distributing industry i must ask you why havent you then just reported the objective FACTS instead of making words up that sound like another unlogical press release of a lobby group or PR-firm for the content industry?

    In the end stay: That was just a journalisticly bad written article after all.