Friday, 12 April 2013

Why is the person you're quoting a 'spokesman'?

I try not to start posts off with "when I was a young reporter..." but, well, here goes: 
When I was a young reporter the word 'spokesman/woman' didn't really appear in local papers. 
It was part of my weeklies paper training that you included the names of whichever person was speaking on behalf of an organisation, rather than using the 'spokesman' title, and using that anonymous identifier was frowned upon. 
Generally, it would get sent back by a sub with a request  order to add the name.

Anyway, it struck me, this week, as I leafed through my paper, that doesn't seem to be the case any more, and I wanted to do something about it.  
It wasn't a dig at press officers or media managers, it wasn't a point-proving exercise, it certainly wasn't a campaign. 
But I think if someone is representing, especially from a public body, they should be named - after all, they are in TV or radio news broadcasts, when they stand up and do their thing. 
I also think it's good journalism to name the people you quote. 
But somewhere along the way we've stopped doing that with the people representing companies and organisations.
I know subs are in short supply these days but training isn't lacking - has 'spokesman' become the norm because there are just so many of them now?

So, in the words of Carrie Bradshaw, I got to wondering: When did we stop naming spokespeople in our articles? And why do we think readers don't need to know the name of the messenger?  
And then I asked Twitter for some thoughts. 
There were quite a lot of responses, from hacks, ex-hacks and people working in PR, so they're collected in the Storify below. If you've got some thoughts to add to the debate, for or against, I'd love to hear from you. 

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