OLD Media Moves

Why can’t we all just get along?

November 1, 2013

Posted by Liz Hester

Talking Biz News hosted a conference Friday at the CUNY Graduate School of Journalism in New York about the state of business journalism.

The first panel featured journalists, former journalists, corporate public relations officers and PR agency executives exploring the relationships between corporations and business journalists.

Many on the panel agreed that today’s fast-paced news cycle and demand for continuous content is hindering the development of relationships between journalists and company representatives. This creates a conflict between the pace journalists need to put out stories and the companies that should have the opportunity to comment on them. For example, many reporters expect companies to respond to a query within an hour, however, for many firms getting approval of statements takes time.

Relationships don’t necessarily need to be cordial to be productive, said Kevin Shinkle, the business editor at the Associated Press.

“I’m all for adversarial relationships with companies, but the inability to take the time to get to know people is hard,” Shinkle  (pictured) said. “There was time to get to know PR people. I had relationships. That’s gone. No one has time.”

Stephen Labaton, formerly of the New York Times and now a partner at RLM Finsbury, agreed that sometimes conflict can push companies to improve, but lamented the speed at which news is produced. He urged journalists to take the time to report accurate stories and push back if they thought more time was necessary. He also said the Internet allowed companies to respond in ways they previously didn’t have available.

Anne Marie Squeo, a managing director at communications consulting firm 30 Point Strategies, said she wished she had understood more about the internal workings of companies when she was a reporter. Once she made the switch to work for a corporation, she realized that public relations staff didn’t typically sit on statements for hours, but were working through the approval process, which takes time.

“Having a shared understanding of each others roles and responsibilities is important,” Squeo said.

Peter Lauria, business editor at Buzzfeed, agreed and also talked about how reporters are able to leverage those relationships to produce quality stories. He urged companies to pay attention to emerging media, not just traditional top outlets since readers will respond to good, accurate content. He pointed out that companies are able to work with journalists that are good no matter their outlet.

Another development the panelists discussed was the decline of well-reported stories. Squeo talked about pitching complete stories with photos, video and sources to harried journalists, who took the packages because they are so pressed for time. She urged reporters to find other sources and to take the time to do their background work before going to companies with their stories.

Sally Beatty, a senior director in Pfizer’s policy, external affairs and communications division, also emphasized the importance of actually reporting before approaching a company. She said that in her career the skills she gained at the Wall Street Journal as a reporter come in handy navigating a large organization to find the answers to journalists’ queries.

When asked about the state of business journalism, Rik Kirkland, director of publishing and a principal at McKinsey, said that despite the expectation that the state of journalism is declining, good work is being produced.

Most of the panelists agreed that the pace of news and the need to constantly generate new content puts pressure on journalists as well as their communications counterparts. Developing and maintaining good relationships is an important part of covering companies. Having a mutual understanding or different roles will also help improve relationships.

Subscribe to TBN

Receive updates about new stories in the industry daily or weekly.

Subscribe to TBN

Receive updates about new stories in the industry.