5 types of bad journalistic behavior driving PR pros nuts

A former reporter turned PR pro rallies his former industry to rise above the often-common practices tarnishing the media profession.


Journalists are curious, sometimes to a fault.

In the drive to get a story first, some reporters will ignore rules of conduct and basic journalism. Then there are the ones with not-so-hidden agendas of their own or those pushed by their bosses.

In these cases, it’s perfectly appropriate to close the door and turn off future access. This type of behavior cannot be condoned, and as the media landscape becomes even more frayed, PR professionals need to take a stand against bad behavior.

Trust me, there is not much worse for a reporter or a publication than to have their news sources cut them off. For public companies, this is difficult given disclosure rules, but stanching the information flow will make life difficult for journalists’ with low standards.

Here are some types of bad journalistic behavior:

Lack of journalistic integrity. This one covers the gamut. A good and realistic example is knowingly presenting only part of a story to grab a bigger headline or teaser. I used to tell my reporters the best news story is one that upsets both sides of the story, not just one.

Lack of fairness. This covers one-sided reporting, such as writing about the filing of a suit but not its dismissal, or focusing on the handful detractors of a deal instead of the majority of those in favor.

Violating stated rules of conduct. Journalists do not have carte blanche to break the law or violate rules that protect people’s privacy. Regardless of the news, journalists need to follow the rules, and not, for instance, trespass and violate privacy statutes.

Agenda-driven. Yes, media outlets are run by corporate executives, and they have agendas. We work with one publication that, no matter the story topic, will use it as a soapbox against a particular industry we represent. We no longer cooperate, after being dragged through the mud several times.

Poor reporting. This is the easiest to determine. These reporters are better suited to another profession, but through attrition or other means they have maintained steady jobs in the industry and even moved up in the ranks. They consistently get facts wrong and butcher quotes. They are not your friends, and they will never be able to turn the corner toward good journalism.

Unfortunately, I’ve run into all of the above, most in the last several weeks. Take these journalists off your pitching lists, and when you do get a call from them, don’t offer them any information.

Yes, this seems to go against what we do as a profession, but ultimately we are doing what’s best for our clients and, maybe, deterring these bad behaviors.

Gil Rudawsky is a former reporter and editor. He heads up the crisis communication and issues management practice at GroundFloor Media in Denver. Read his blog or contact him at grudawsky@groundfloormedia.com.

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