PRESS: Markoff/NYTimes : "Big Brother & the Computer Age"

Eric Hughes hughes at
Thu May 6 22:13:07 PDT 1993

The quotation of mine in the NYT today was one I gave to John Markoff
three weeks ago when the story first broke.  I called him up on the
afternoon of the announcment--his office is in SF, across the bay--and
told him I wanted him to give him an opportunity to quote me.  I was
surprised to see it in today's article.

The hook for this article was the recent FOIA disclosures.  Newspaper
articles usually don't get written unless there is something that has
changed, something that is "new."  An ongoing situation won't get
reported on until something specific happens; this specific happening
can be an event made just for the press--a press conference, a press
release, a public statement, or some publication.  For further reading
on this subject, look at _Reading the News_, an anthology by Pantheon

The FOIA disclosures about NSA's involvement in NIST was the hook, but
that wasn't the point of the story.  The facts of the FOIA were at the
back of the story, but they were there.  This illustrates another
principle of the newspaper: once you have a hook, there's lots of
stuff you can hang on it.

It really is easy to get quoted, but to do so, you have to make
yourself available to the press.  The recent FOIA story is a good
hook.  All the recent crypto events should be enough for a Sunday
article (but are not enough without a hook!).  I would encourage all
of you to make contact with your local media and offer to explain this
abstruse subject to them.  

Reporters have little enough time to learn about what they talk about
as it is.  If you can present yourself as a bona fide expert (and this
does not necessarily mean as an academic) and make an offer to tutor
someone on the subject, not only will the quality of coverage improve,
but a friendship will have been made.


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