Last Thursday, more than 350 newspapers took a stand in support of the First Amendment to the U.S. Constitution and the importance of a free press to freedom and democracy. Page is proud to have joined 11 other public relations organizations in issuing a statement of support.
Page is not a newcomer to this topic. More than a year ago, amid increasing attacks on the press and attempts to spread fake news, we issued a statement in which we declared our “support for journalists and public relations professionals who fearlessly fight for the truth, bring facts to light and hold government, business and other institutions accountable.” That pairing of journalists and corporate communicators as allies was quite intentional.
Is journalism perfect? Hardly. Nor is any other institution. Do I chafe at journalistic bias and mistakes? Of course. As a media relations executive and chief communications officer for major institutions in both government and the private sector, I’ve had many battles with reporters. (And as a journalist, I had my share of battles with sources, too.)
Journalists and the spokespeople for the institutions they cover don’t always agree, nor should we. And when we disagree, we call each other out, as we should. But corporate communicators should accept the adversarial nature of our relationship with the press, which is essential to ferreting out the truth, and we should respect their critical role in informing the public. Most journalists return that respect, assuming we prove ourselves to be trustworthy.
As we consider these issues, we must acknowledge that the rise of a digital commons in which almost anyone can create content and attract advertising dollars, combined with the pressures of the ever-shorter news cycle, have made objective journalism more difficult. Tensions between journalists and the institutions they cover have increased, as I’ve commented previously.
All the more reason to redouble efforts on both sides to increase trust and cooperation, while preserving the healthy and appropriate adversarial relationship and shared commitment to the truth.
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