In today's New York Times, public editor Clark Hoyt had this to say about a reporter's use of Twitter to air some complaints about Toyota:
Hiroko Tabuchi, who said she knew the guidelines, nonetheless let frustration get the better of her on March 29, when she attended a news conference by Akio Toyoda, the president of Toyota. Her string of tweets about the event was first reported by The Nytpicker, an anonymous Web site that focuses on The Times.
With less than three hours of sleep, Tabuchi wrote, she had to get up at 6 a.m. “We love you Mr. Toyoda!” After the news conference, she wrote that Toyoda took few questions and “ignored reporters, incl me who tried to ask a follow-up. I’m sorry, but Toyota sucks.”
Lawrence Ingrassia, the business editor, said reporters have always complained to one another, about irritations at work, sometimes vividly, but when they do it “to the world, live, I think it’s unacceptable.” I would have pulled Tabuchi from the Toyota story, but Ingrassia said he decided not to because what she wrote indicated she was upset with the company’s press arrangements, not prejudiced against it or its products. He said he saw no bias in her reporting and had received no complaints about it.
Perhaps I'm alone in this, but Ingrassia's point about the newsroom banter actually suggests to me that we should encourage journalists to tweet about stuff like this. Unless they're emotionless human beings incapable of forming thoughts*, journalists are going to have opinions on a variety of issues related to the topics they cover -- even if it's just the press arrangements. Perhaps a journalist will block out experiences like this when writing her story**, but, if not, readers deserve to know about what could be shaping the reporter's opinion.
Further, what is the cost in making public thoughts journalists already parade around the newsroom? Certainly, it won't help with the persistent charges of bias levied against the press***--but those are going to continue anyway. For readers that understand and appreciate the media, this will serve as a welcome show of respect for their intelligence.
* I will not dispute this is within the range of possibility for some...
** And I'm not certain that the press accommodations aren't relevant in this situation. Given the problems Toyota is having, one would hope they would show some respect for those that want answers about safety from them.
*** A topic best saved for another time