OLD Media Moves

The clash between PR and biz journalism

December 23, 2008

Allen Wastler, the managing editor of CNBC.com, writes Tuesday about an AP story on banks that refused to let the PR professionals at the banks have their way.

Wastler writes, “In that story a bank spokesman tried the gambit of getting the reporter not to report that the bank was not commenting (follow that?). This isn’t unusual. Sometimes a ‘no comment’ on a story can look just as bad as actually saying something about it.

“When a spokesman makes that play it puts the reporter in an awkward position; especially a beat reporter who probably deals with the company fairly often. The PR folk can make your life pretty easy … giving you an early heads up on company announcements, arranging interviews, saving you time with statistics gathering. But if a reporter burns them, even in the course of good journalism, those conveniences can disappear.

“Hey, a lot of reporting is about relationships. And you try to keep relationships good. So a reporter may be inclined to cut a spokesperson a little slack from time to time.

“Another trick PR folks try is getting reporters to go off the record to discuss an issue, so they can try to schmooze and spin and win a reporter over to their point of view … without worrying about their words making it into print. One spokeswoman in that AP story tried that as well.”

Read more here.

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