Thursday, November 3, 2011

This Is Not Journalism

We often work with clients to help them prepare for public meetings and other information sessions where media are likely to attend. At one of these recent events I saw a reporting tactic that I have never before experienced. Minutes before this meeting began, a reporter handed out hundreds of business cards in the crowd with the following message hand written on the back:

This just blew me away. This was brazen controversy hunting. I am all for reporters keeping companies accountable and reporting the facts of a story so the public can be informed, but this is something else all together. When I started my career as a television reporter the influence of news consultants was beginning to shape the need for an investigative reporting team as a path to ratings success. I believe it is this ratings mindset that is driving newsrooms today to always have a controversial scoop whether one exists or not; even if it means using tactics like a handwritten note begging for a whistle blower. While not a clear breach of ethics, it is tacky.

(P.S. -- I won't name this reporter or the station he worked for, but I sure wanted to.)

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