Flack Says Ogle Google Girl, Reporters Comply

ABC News grants "Google's First Female Engineer" two chances to spread the company's good news - and spread it thick.

“It’s hard to believe that search engine giant Google hasn’t even celebrated its 10th birthday yet.

But still, the success stories of people like Marissa Mayer, the company’s vice president of search products and user experience, are among some of the nation’s best.”

It’s hard to believe that ABCNews.com has actually published a piece that begins in such a shamelessly toadying fashion.

But still, who can resist the lure of reading more about someone billed as one of “the nation’s best” “success stories?”

And so on we read, anxious to learn more about Mayer, “Google’s First Female Engineer” (per the story’s headline).

It quickly became clear, however, that we would not learn very much about Mayer at all, that she is merely the hook — plucked from her cubicle, perhaps, by the Google PR machine and handed a set of talking points — through which Google can grab some (more) media space to tell the “success story” that really matters: that is, to spread the good news of Google.

Spread thick. ABCNews.com’s Jonathan Silverstein is actually just repurposing a puffy interview of Mayer that his colleague, John Donvan, conducted for an ABC News Now “Ahead of the Curve” Web cast — an interview teased thusly: “Once focused on Web searches, Google has become a useful tool for so much more.”

And so we learn — largely through Silverstein’s liberal quoting and paraphrasing of Mayer (as interviewed by Donvan) — such things as how Google has managed to stay true to its original mission (“organiz[ing] the world’s information”) “despite the company’s continued success at creating varied services for its clients” — services such as Google Earth which “is so good at doing its job that it has quickly become a program many Web surfers don’t know how they ever lived without, Mayer says.” We also learn “How Google Stays on Top” — as Silverstein words his second sub-hed — which involves “having small teams work on large projects.” (Adds Silverstein, “Don’t be fooled though. Mayer says there are more people working on the core search team than ever before. So there is no need to worry that your [Google] searches will go unanswered.”)

And what about the supposed reason for this supposed news story (you know, that chick?)

Well, in the eleventh paragraph we get this: “Mayer carries with her an impressive resume that includes a Stanford education and stints at the UBS research lab in Zurich, Switzerland, and at SRI International in Menlo Park, Calif. Though her history may paint the picture of an aggressive, take-no-prisoners businesswoman, Mayer says the atmosphere at Google has always been anything but.” What about Mayer? Is she “an aggressive, take-no-prisoners businesswoman,” as “her history” suggests?

Alas, Silverstein never does tell us anything more about “Google’s First Female Engineer.” But he does give Mayer still more space to sing her employer’s praises, reporting that “Mayer says” that Google “keeps the doors open to women who want to get into computer sciences.”

Here’s hoping, then, that whoever lands an interview one day with “Google’s One-Thousand-And-First Female Engineer” does more than transcribe.

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Liz Cox Barrett is a writer at CJR.