Newspaper article THE JOURNAL RECORD

Business Leaders Rate Press Knowledge, Objectivity Low, but That's Not Surprising

Newspaper article THE JOURNAL RECORD

Business Leaders Rate Press Knowledge, Objectivity Low, but That's Not Surprising

Article excerpt

"Businessmen have to take some responsibility for how we're treated in the press. If no one else will do it, we should educate reporters instead of crying around about how ignorant they all are." - Excerpt answer from executive survey by Egon Zehnder International USA.

It probably will come as no surprise to most Oklahoma executives to find out that most corporate leaders around the nation feel there is a general strained relationship between business and the press.

It certainly comes as no surprise to me.

The press rated only C-minus for "journalists' knowledge" and a C for objectivity in a survey of more than 100 top-level executives by Egon Zehnder International USA, according to its Corporate Issues Monitor news letter.

For ability to resist temptation to sensationalize, the press rated a D-minus.

We of the press did a little better in uncovering wrongdoing and identifying important trends - rating C-plus in both. We received a B-minus for ability to inform, writing ability and entertainment value.

The only surprise I find in all of this is the entertainment grade. I find far too little entertainment in business reporting, though there has been little to laugh about in Oklahoma business since 1982. I probably would have given us a D.

During my 25 years as a sports writer, I'm sure we would have been rated just as low or worse in most categories by sports leaders - except maybe for entertainment. Since we were covering professional entertainers, we tended to bring out their personalities, which were inherantly entertaining.

However, when I say I'm not surprised by our ratings, that certainly doesn't mean that I agree, and I don't.

That's because I'm on the other side of the fence, and that fence generally is the reason for what ever tension exists.

In fact, the tension is healthy and should exist.

The important factors are that we of the press have a different mission than business leaders, and we come from a different background in preparing for our role in life.

- Most executives are trying to sell - sell products, services, the performance of management, personal achievement - sometimes a whole industry, government or the economy of a city or state. Most are educated and trained to promote in their specialities.

- Our basic mission is to inform - inform the public about products, services, the performance of management, achievements, failures, and the problems as well as the assets of an industry or economy.

While these lines of business and the press are sometimes parallel, often they are not.

Recently I receive a well-thought out letter that brings out this basic difference. The writer, an outstanding executive of a well-respected Oklahoma City firm, said The Journal Record tends toward too much negative reporting and should emphasize the positive to "promote" Oklahoma and it's economy.

My response was that our basic job is to "inform" in breaking news reports (regardless of whether it's negative or positive), rather than "promote." However, as part of that mission to "inform," we also seek success stories.

We have to look for good news, especially in this economy, while bad news hits us in the face.

It's the balance of informing according to the news and pointing out success in features and columns that we are trying to achieve.

Considering the viewpoint of executives, I certainly accept their B-minus on the ability of the press to inform and a C on our objectivity as high compliments. Since we often are at basic cross purposes, we must be doing pretty well to get above a D or an F.

This survey is important, because we of the press need to understand the viewpoint of business leaders, just as we want them to understand our approach.

There is no question that the business press can stand considerable improvement. …

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