Silicon Valley Watcher - Former FT journalist Tom Foremski reporting from the intersection of technology and media

Controlling access to top executives is widely used to influence media coverage

Posted by Tom Foremski - November 29, 2004

by Tom Foremski for SiliconValleyWatcher.com

One of the practices used to influence media coverage is controlling access to a company’s top executives.

For example, a reporter for a large newspaper or magazine needs access to CEOs of important companies. However, before that access is granted, a relationship has to be developed to ensure that a reporter understands their business, their strategy, who their competition is, how they differentiate themselves, etc before they give access to the valuable time of their top executives. This is all perfectly reasonable.

But, this is also where there is opportunity for leverage, where there is potential to influence media coverage to a larger or lesser degree, because reporters need that access. Why? Because editors will scream at them if their competitor got an interview with the head honcho and they did not.

Companies can demand that questions must be submitted in advance, that final drafts of stories be approved by them, that some subjects cannot be mentioned etc. This varies from company to company and larger publications are able to refuse such demands and still get the interview.

I have to say at this point, that in my time at the Financial Times I was never subjected to such demands. But all journalists are aware of this point of leverage, and some have been denied access for good and bad reasons. The good reasons are that they might have been sloppy journalists with little understanding of the company or their sector. The bad reasons are obvious.

The value bloggers have in the media landscape is their vantage as independent commentators. If they are brought into the “system” they will be compromised.

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