Ignore reporters’ ‘promises,’ and prepare to get grilled

A journalist’s recent admission, ‘I lie constantly,’ simply divulges what PR pros and spokespeople have long realized: Reporters won’t pull their punches, so you’d better be ready.

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Glenn Thrush, the chief political correspondent for Politico, recently sent several surprising tweets about the promises that reporters make—and break—with communications staffers arranging interviews with their principals.

His main argument? It’s acceptable to “lie” to PR pros by promising a favorable story in exchange for access—and then doing the story you want to do anyway.

I’ll let others debate whether such lies are acceptable. My interest is less in serving as an arbiter of journalistic ethics than in offering some insight into the mind of a journalist.

Thrush’s frankness surprised me at first—his blunt (if tongue-in-cheek) tone seemed a bit shocking. Yet the more I thought about his message, the more I realized he was just saying out loud what most experienced PR pros have encountered at some point in their career.

From a reporter’s point of view, I’m not sure he’s wrong.

A reporter’s primary function is to get the story. It’s easy to see how political journalists, tasked with reporting stories in the public interest but facing a climate filled with spin, subterfuge and misdirection, might be tempted to fudge the agreements they make when setting up interviews.

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