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Epic PR Fail
October 14, 2010 11:27 AM   Subscribe

New York Times business columnist Joe Nocera's column last weekend excoriated HP and SAP, and presented Oracle in a positive light. One problem: Nocera's fiancee is the PR person for Oracle's lead attorney in its lawsuit against SAP. Woops. (via gawker)
posted by VicNebulous (25 comments total) 3 users marked this as a favorite

 

The New York Times you say ?

The Judith Miller New York Times ?

The Jayson Blair New York Times ?

This would be my surprised face.
posted by Pogo_Fuzzybutt at 11:30 AM on October 14, 2010 [3 favorites]


Oracle really seems to be taking pains to make itself the most hated name in technology right now, doesn't it? I mean, I think SAP and i think "horrible business-ware product with weird German acronyms that I want to minimize contact with", but I think Oracle and I think "actively trying to fuck over everybody".
posted by Artw at 11:30 AM on October 14, 2010 [9 favorites]


Jack Shafer at Slate says, "so what?"

"I take the Times at its word that Nocera wouldn't have written about the case had he known that his fiancee worked for a law firm that represents Oracle. But in what universe does it make sense for him to have buried his pen because of his fiancee's job? To begin with, the piece Nocera wrote is a work of commentary and opinion, not a clinical example of objective journalism. Although reported out nicely, it's a subjective document, written in the first person. It's the sum total of what Nocera thinks about the subject. Almost by definition, such a piece is going to be slanted and biased in the direction of what Nocera thinks is true. And, to drive a 10-penny nail through this Editors' Note, slants, biases, and prejudices are exactly what Nocera's editors want him to contribute to the paper. It's almost his job description! It makes no sense to police his work based on where his fiancee draws a paycheck."
posted by BobbyVan at 11:31 AM on October 14, 2010


SAP has one primary competitor: Oracle,

Hmm...

SAP primarily makes software which sits on top of, primarily, Oracle DB servers and does businessy things. Not sure I;d really call them competitors there as such.
posted by Artw at 11:35 AM on October 14, 2010


To be clear: the fiancee doesn't work for Oracle, just for the law firm that's fighting the case for Oracle -- we don't even know if she is involved on the case. Almost certainly not, actually, because law firms don't generally do much PR about cases in process, since that would jeopardize their entire case. This seems like a nonscandal.
posted by TheWash at 11:38 AM on October 14, 2010 [2 favorites]


SAP primarily makes software which sits on top of, primarily, Oracle DB servers and does businessy things. Not sure I;d really call them competitors there as such.

This would be to underestimate the extent of Oracle's eBusiness Suite of products. CRM, Financials, Payroll, HR, Procurement, Supply Chain etc. All in pretty much direct competition with SAP. Why do you think they bought Siebel?
posted by Electric Dragon at 11:39 AM on October 14, 2010


Yeah, that's a fair point... All part of the fun wacky world of tech where you can be partners and competitors at the same time.
posted by Artw at 11:43 AM on October 14, 2010



The New York Times you say ?

The Judith Miller New York Times ?

The Jayson Blair New York Times ?

This would be my surprised face.



Goodness, but this kind of comment is incredibly tiresome. This non-scandal is only even an issue because of the kind of stringent — I'd say, agreeing with Shafer, absurdly over-stringent — but superficial ethical norms of which the NYT is the absolute epitome. Jayson Blair was a one-off accomplished liar and Judith Miller's stories would all have passed this kind of super-stringent-but-superficial ethical test. That's the whole point of the Miller scandal: she wrote factually accurate stories that were journalistically completely misleading. She was a stenographer to power. She didn't lie. The difference is crucial, and it actually really understates the problem to think of her as a liar.
posted by game warden to the events rhino at 11:43 AM on October 14, 2010 [4 favorites]


"I take the Times at its word that Nocera wouldn't have written about the case had he known that his fiancee worked for a law firm that represents Oracle. But in what universe does it make sense for him to have buried his pen because of his fiancee's job? To begin with, the piece Nocera wrote is a work of commentary and opinion, not a clinical example of objective journalism. Although reported out nicely, it's a subjective document, written in the first person. It's the sum total of what Nocera thinks about the subject. Almost by definition, such a piece is going to be slanted and biased in the direction of what Nocera thinks is true. And, to drive a 10-penny nail through this Editors' Note, slants, biases, and prejudices are exactly what Nocera's editors want him to contribute to the paper. It's almost his job description! It makes no sense to police his work based on where his fiancee draws a paycheck."

He should not have been censored over this. He should not have had his worked "policed." But ethically speaking it would have been better if he had publicly disclosed the relationship. An editorial is obviously not the same as a news article whose aim is to be objective. But when you are having something published in a newspaper that aims to shift public opinion, you should err on the side of disclosure -- especially when your personal biases and inter-relationships are not necessarily going to be immediately obvious to the reader.
posted by zarq at 12:01 PM on October 14, 2010 [2 favorites]


To be clear: the fiancee doesn't work for Oracle, just for the law firm that's fighting the case for Oracle -- we don't even know if she is involved on the case. Almost certainly not, actually, because law firms don't generally do much PR about cases in process, since that would jeopardize their entire case. This seems like a nonscandal.

She's Director of Communications. She could conceivably be asked by multiple journalists on a daily basis whether various firm members will either comment on the case and/or respond to comments made by outsiders about it.

Don't mistake 'not generating press releases or otherwise actively pushing the case in the media' with being uninvolved.
posted by zarq at 12:07 PM on October 14, 2010 [3 favorites]


Goodness, but this kind of comment is incredibly tiresome. This non-scandal is only even an issue because of the kind of stringent — I'd say, agreeing with Shafer, absurdly over-stringent — but superficial ethical norms of which the NYT is the absolute epitome.

It's a problem with reportage in newspapers generally, yes. I mean, our local rag recently ran a story about the effect a proposed property tax increase would have. They used the average home cost of the area - $400,000 and the increase was like 400 per year. But that's crap - the median home cost is $130,000, so the tax increase wouldn't even be half what they reported for 70% of the population.

I know grade school math is hard, but shouldn't journalism schools require it? It seems like it would be cheaper to just fire the newspaper staff and hook the fax machine right up to the printing press. That's an error in reportage so egregious that you have to wonder if it was intentional.

It's this mealy-mouthed "commitment" to journalism's ethics that rankles. If they want to run an opinion piece, put it on the opinion page. Otherwise, I'm left wondering why I should bother reading whatever they write - especially if I'm left to do my own fact checking.
posted by Pogo_Fuzzybutt at 12:10 PM on October 14, 2010 [1 favorite]


If they want to run an opinion piece, put it on the opinion page.

Aren't columnists generally considered opinion pieces anyways?
posted by smackfu at 12:13 PM on October 14, 2010


SAP primarily makes software which sits on top of, primarily, Oracle DB servers and does businessy things.

I thought SAP had its own database that it ran on top of. Whether or not the business systems could be run on Oracle, it's not the case that Oracle was an essential part of the software stack.
posted by fatbird at 12:13 PM on October 14, 2010


[Judith Miller] was a stenographer to power. She didn't lie.

If she did not lie, she exhibited a depraved indifference to truth.

Either way, that's a paddlin'.
posted by Joe Beese at 12:25 PM on October 14, 2010


His name is Léo Apotheker, a suave European — how many American C.E.O.’s have an accent aigu in their name?

Come the fuck on.
posted by fleetmouse at 12:44 PM on October 14, 2010


Wow, just out of curiosity I checked to see where Judith Miller wound up - where else but a neoconservative think tank and Fox News.
posted by any major dude at 1:05 PM on October 14, 2010


Come the fuck on.

Léo strolled down the Champs Élysées, a bag from Hermès insouciantly draped over his Prada-clad arm. A manicured finger gently caressed the screen of his iPhone. Removing his Rayban Wayfarers (1960s vintage, passed down by his father before the renowned playboy drowned mono-skiing in the waters off Cap Ferrat) he pressed the speaker to his lightly bronzed ear, careful to avoid messing with his immaculate haircut.

She answered, and he could hear her apprehension and excitement.

"Cheri" she whispered. He could imagine her taking the call in the kitchen (normally only frequented by servants) to avoid raising the suspicions of her husband. Léo smirked at this thought. Fool. To play around with his secretary whilst his delicious wife made him a cuckold.

He named a hotel on Georges V. "An hour" he said, and then extinguished the call before she had time to reply. He knew she'd be there. They always came running when he commanded.

Lithely, Léo slid onto his chair on the terrasse of an exclusive bistro. A waiter moved towards him, a clipboard in his hand. The clipboard held the list of names of those standing in the cold, and by the density of the scrawl on it Léo could tell that the wait was around half an hour. At the time of day, this was reasonably good. He could also see the maître d'hôtel lurching towards the waiter, desperate to avoid an embarrassing encounter between this €10 per hour connard and his most valued customer. Léo watched with slight amusement, before returning to the more pressing business of arranging his activities for the evening.

A café crème materialised on the table. Léo gesticulated absent-mindedly, spurning the offer of a menu. Why eat before working up an appetite?
posted by djgh at 1:26 PM on October 14, 2010 [8 favorites]


I feel so unfrench without an accent aigu.
posted by srboisvert at 4:03 PM on October 14, 2010


It seems like journalism standards of fairness and integrity in this country have slipped after a short period of when they were pretty high.

Wow, just out of curiosity I checked to see where Judith Miller wound up - where else but a neoconservative think tank and Fox News.

Not a bad pay-off. Makes better money than at NYT, I'll bet.
posted by Mental Wimp at 4:53 PM on October 14, 2010


The New York Times you say ? The Judith Miller New York Times ? The Jayson Blair New York Times ? This would be my surprised face.

so. fucking. tiresome. This is my grateful face for a very small sample of some of the outstanding work the Times has done just since 2003.

2003 Pulitzer Prize Winner Investigative Reporting
Awarded to Clifford J. Levy of The New York Times for his vivid, brilliantly written series "Broken Homes" that exposed the abuse of mentally ill adults in state-regulated homes.

2004 Pulitzer Prize Winner Public Service
Awarded to The New York Times for the work of David Barstow and Lowell Bergman that relentlessly examined death and injury among American workers and exposed employers who break basic safety rules.

2005 Pulitzer Prize Winner National Reporting
Awarded to Walt Bogdanich of The New York Times for his heavily documented stories about the corporate cover-up of responsibility for fatal accidents at railway crossings.

2010 Pulitzer Prize Winner Explanatory Reporting
Awarded to Michael Moss and members of The New York Times Staff for relentless reporting on contaminated hamburger and other food safety issues that, in print and online, spotlighted defects in federal regulation and led to improved practices.
posted by mlis at 5:21 PM on October 14, 2010 [1 favorite]


Jesus, Jack Shafer used to be better than this.

I take the Times at its word that Nocera wouldn't have written about the case had he known that his fiancee worked for a law firm that represents Oracle. But in what universe does it make sense for him to have buried his pen because of his fiancee's job?

First of all, it's asking a helluva lot to suggest there was zero pillow talk on this one between Nocera and his fiancee; to simply "take the Times at its word" is to abdicate your responsibility as a media critic in favor of a kneejerk defense of a clear mistake.

Second, it's this damn universe, Jack, in which it makes perfect sense to demand Nocera to have disclosed - not "buried his pen," nice misdirect there - his relationship. That he failed to do so until others pointed it out is revealing. Joe didn't know what his fiancee was connected to - even during the five days after his column was published and his fiancee had certainly seen it, before other folks wrote about the conflict? And the Times wasn't aware of the conflict until then?

Yeah, right, Jack Shafer. That's surely plausible. Whatever. I generally like Joe Nocera's columns and have for years, and I'll happily stand corrected if my understanding of the sequence of events is misguided, but right now, I can't for a second see how this doesn't reflect badly on Nocera and raise pointed questions about personal bias and lack of disclosure on his part. Jack Shafer's defense misses the point in a way that seems almost deliberate.
posted by mediareport at 7:09 PM on October 14, 2010


fatbird: the number of production SAP systems running on MaxDB is probably zero. Oracle is by far the most popular DB backend for SAP.

Having been an SAP employee (by way of Business Objects) during Léo's tenure, I have to say I enjoyed Nocera's hatchet job a great deal.

The announcement that he'd been hired by HP was a major WTF for me. Like many others, I'd idly speculated about who might buy SAP and come up with HP as one possible candidate, but even in the context of that Apotheker doesn't make that much sense. He'd hardly be welcomed with open arms by the rank & file in Walldorf, who were practically ecstatic about Hasso coming back into the picture after Apotheker's departure.

Luckily, I don't work there anymore.
posted by pascal at 9:54 PM on October 14, 2010 [1 favorite]


When the Oracle vs Google debacle reared its ugly head, two things happened: we all felt sorry for Google and considered why Oracle might possibly want to make the Java world more unattractive than it already is.
posted by Artw at 10:26 AM on October 15, 2010


Oracle Corp has hired private investigators to track down Hewlett-Packard CEO
posted by Artw at 11:20 AM on November 9, 2010


Apache declares war on Oracle over Java
posted by Artw at 1:30 PM on November 9, 2010


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