Trudy Lieberman of Columbia Journalism Review has a revealing Q&A interview with Wendell Potter, a former head of corporate communications for CIGNA, the countryâ€™s fourth-largest insurer, and now a senior fellow on health care at the Center for Media and Democracy.
Potter talks about dealing with business reporters covering the company. What makes this interview even more revealing — to me — is that Potter was one of the people I dealt with when covering CIGNA in the early 1990s for BusinessWeek.
Here is an excerpt:
TL: How did you spin the press to the industryâ€™s way of thinking?
WP: Over the years I developed relationships with key reporters. When you do that, you are in a much better position to influence the tone and content of stories reporters write, or at least be sure that your companyâ€™s key messages are included. Itâ€™s similar to the way special interests woo members of Congress. Itâ€™s not just money; itâ€™s relationships.
TL: Did you ever deliberately mislead the press?
WP: I would say yes, if you mean not disclosing some pertinent information at times. PR people are always making selective disclosures of information. Thatâ€™s what you do. I did not knowingly provide inaccurate information.
TL: How do reporters know whatâ€™s missing?
WP: They donâ€™t. Thatâ€™s why itâ€™s really important to know what youâ€™re covering.
Read more here.